NASELLE — The graduation of five players means a new era is starting in Naselle. Senior post Jackie Steenerson is surrounded by a very young group of teammates. But by the end of last season, there were definite glimpses of what the future would look like.

Freshman Peyton Dalton and eighth-grader Bella Colombo showed playmaking skills and devastating perimeter defense to help lift the team to the State tournament.

Dalton emerged as a defensive stopper on the perimeter and skilled passer. She showed a knack for coming out of nowhere to steal the in-bounds pass; such a play in the fourth quarter at Regionals precipitated a meltdown by Clallam Bay, leading to Naselle’s comeback win. Colombo came up to the high school squad in midseason and played with confidence right away. She showed her ability to run the offense and create, especially in transition.

“Fast breaks are how I got most of my points, off steals,” Colombo said. “I need to work on staying in front of people on defense; people sometimes get by me.”

At State last year, Dalton and Colombo guarded the top two scorers for Mount Vernon Christian, and nobody got by either of them much in a 29-19 Comet loss.

Coach Rose Nisbett plans to use Colombo at point guard this season. She has the 5’7” Dalton working on post moves and will move her inside more. Dalton says she has to be more willing to shoot, saying she has been “more of a passer than anything.” Colombo likes to get Dalton the ball on the baseline. “She can drive the baseline, and pull up and hit a baseline jumper,” Colombo notes.

Steenerson, the 5’10” senior post, is a rebounder and interior weapon. Last year she formed an inside duo with Lilli Zimmerman, the graduated second-team All-State power forward. This year, she may get some touches that previously went to Zimmerman.

“Lilli was our lead post last year, and I’ll have to fill her shoes,” Steenerson said. “I’m trying to work on a hook shot; Lilli was really good with that.”

Freshman Lauren Katyryniuk is developing a step-back three-pointer in practice, where she has shown deadly accuracy.

“It’s a move I’ve been working on; anything I can do to get away from the defender helps,” she said.

Katyryniuk, a veteran of the basketball camp circuit, picked up the move from Cashmere guard Hailey Van Lith, a five-star recruit and Louisville commit.

“Lauren wants to build that identity as a shooter and handler,” Nisbett said. “She’s someone to really watch out for.”

Echo Cenci adds track-star speed and athleticism to the backcourt. Haley Lopez is another three-point threat. Grace Hunt is yet another sophomore joining the varsity roster.

Kaylin Shrives, Delaney Kragerud and Amera Larson provide depth up front to supplement Steenerson and perhaps Dalton.

The Comets were 6-0 in Columbia Valley League play last year, led by league MVP Zimmerman and First-Teamers Taylor Gudmundsen and Hailey Weston, all of whom graduated. The Coastal League’s Taholah Chitwhins took down Naselle 64-38 for the District title but graduated their stars, including Denise Curleybear.

Naselle opens at Ilwaco Dec. 3 at 7 p.m.

Aaron Mead is a sports writer for the Chinook Observer. Contact him at 360-642-8181 or aaroncmead@gmail.com.

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