NASELLE — After winning the Coastal League regular season title three straight years, the Lady Comets move this year to the Columbia Valley League. Their leading scorer, Tayler Ford, and longtime offensive sparkplug, Ellie Chapman, have graduated. However, the Comets also add a potential All League player: Taylor Gudmundsen is back after a hip injury robbed her of most of the previous season. She leads a junior class that is ready to take over.
Strength and power
The Comets’ offense has relied in the last several years on the fast break, fueled by Chapman’s steals and playmaking. This year’s roster features strength and power, which could mean a team built more on rebounding and post play. In particular, junior Lilli Zimmerman is taking on a major role inside.
“We’ve got Lilli Zimmerman down low… I think we’ll look to the post a lot for offense,” Gudmundsen said. “I’ve been working on my post moves, especially in the high post, and my driving,” Zimmerman noted. Zimmerman, a highly committed player who has attended basketball camps the last two years, is dominant on the boards, thanks to a focus on positioning as well as the strength that made her last year’s state shot put champion.
Gudmundsen is likely to lead the team in scoring. She wasn’t really ever at 100 percent last year, but led the team with nine points in the District playoff loss to Neah Bay. Gudmundsen has been a smooth, versatile, playmaking forward but will see time at point guard this year, possibly starting there. Sophie Scrabeck will also handle some point guard duties. The coaches consider her their best bet to stop ultra-quick guards on defense.
“I like getting my assists,” Gudmundsen said, “finding cutters through the back door. I like to push the pace a little.” Whether playing forward or guard, Gudmundsen’s passing and playmaking will be extremely important to the offense. In a sense she is partly replacing Chapman and partly replacing Ford, but her game is very different from either of theirs.
While Ford was a “pure scorer, looking to take off on the break and get open,” assistant coach Greg Nelson said, Gudmundsen is more of a reader of defenses. “She knows when to pass and when to shoot. She has good basketball knowledge, to read and react. She’s always thinking of what her best option is,” he said.
The Comets will still try to get a fast break going. At practices they’ve been hard at work on their press, knowing they’ll need a team-wide effort to generate turnovers and replace the ten-steal games Chapman was known for. “We’re going to press a ton more,” coach Rose Nisbet said.
Aside from Gudmundsen and Zimmerman, there are few known quantities; the Comets are looking for several players to make a leap in their sophomore and junior years. Hailey Weston and Lily Harman have strength similar to Zimmerman’s, making this a potentially strong rebounding team. Harman, a 5’6” guard, could emerge as a versatile player. She has the combination of size and athleticism to bother top perimeter players on defense, effectively guarding the likes of Willapa Valley’s Hannah Cook and Mary M. Knight’s Kaylee Sowle last year.
Coach Nisbet cited progress from Jackie Steenerson, now a sophomore, and sees her as the possible first player off the bench. The 5’7” Kenzie Glenn is another wing-sized player. “Just about everyone on our team is a similar size,” Nisbet noted, giving the Comets a group of tall wings and short posts. As a result, Nisbet is counting on team-wide versatility. Darian Jacot joins the varsity roster, bringing what coaches describe as an aggressive approach on defense.
In the Columbia Valley League, the Comets join Three Rivers Christian, Firm Foundation, Columbia Adventist, the Washington School for the Deaf, and Cedar Tree Classical Christian. Three Rivers was about at Naselle’s level last year. They faced three Coastal League teams at District, blowing out Wishkah, losing to Taholah, and beating Mary M. Knight by one; they had won a close game over Taholah in the regular season. Columbia Adventist lost by a point to Knight in the first round of District but, unlike Three Rivers, returns most of its team. Taholah returns nearly everyone and is favored to repeat as District champion.