It’s as if Cherokee Ainslie was handed the keys of a Bugatti Veyron sports car, and told she could drive it at any speed.
That is the kind of talent-laden roster she has in her first career varsity girls’ basketball head-coaching job at Puyallup High School.
Everywhere you look on the floor, there are young but very skilled post players who are going to be around for a few years – flanked by super quick, tough and skilled guards on the perimeter.
It’s that kind of roster needed to wreck what Federal Way High has built in the South Puget Sound League South Division the past two seasons – back-to-back divisional titles and a 31-1 mark.
A big statement was made by the fourth-ranked Vikings, who jumped on the Eagles early before taking a 74-58 victory in Puyallup.
Baskets were easy to come by in the first quarter – and at close quarters – behind forwards Marissa Miller (team-high 23 points) and Addie Picha (18) as Puyallup opened up an 18-4 lead.
That cushion was needed, because it was about that point when Eagles’ star Raven Benton started hunting for her shot after a quiet first quarter.
Benton, a 5-foot-10 senior who was part of a few Class 4A championship runs, scored 16 of her 18 first-half points in the second quarter. She finished with a game-high 36 before fouling out with 52 seconds remaining.
From her days as a Bellarmine Prep assistant, Ainslie knew of Benton from the playoffs. But just in case, she did consult with her uncle, John, who is the coach at Bethel – a team that handed the Eagles their first loss last week.
What did the elder Ainslie suggest?
“Just to stop Raven,” Cherokee Ainslie said. “That is what everyone says.”
For long spurts, the Vikings had nobody who could. Finally, after the Eagles cut it to 11 twice in the fourth quarter – the last at 59-48 with 6:54 remaining, it was Jeffers who did the best job guarding her on the perimeter.
Midway through the fourth quarter, the Vikings scored on four of five possessions to grab a 69-52 lead with 2:53 to go.