Papermakers bound together by basketball

Confidence is soaring for the CHS girls and their new coach

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The Camas High School girls basketball players work on passing and pressure packed defense during practice.

Friday, Feb. 19, 2010, a date Camas High School girls basketball players are never going to forget.

On that historical night, the Papermakers defeated the Prairie Falcons 59-46 for the district championship. Prairie had won 136 straight games against Greater St. Helens League schools, before Camas brought the decade long streak to an end.

Sitting around the table in the CHS commons room, seniors Kaeliana “Kat” DeVera, Katelyn Henson, Kayla Roche and Melissa Williams reflected on the evening that changed everything.

“This is the first time we feel we have a chance to be a really successful team,” Henson said. “Beating Prairie put Camas girls basketball on the map, but our goal and our dream has always been to go to state.”

“We want to be remembered as the team that built this program up,” Williams said. “Nobody did us any favors, we worked hard for everything. I love underdog stories.”

Although they enjoyed the limelight that came with beating Prairie, the Papermakers were unable to up the ante at bi-districts and fell short of qualifying for the state tournament. A new season begins Thursday against Skyview. Tip off is at 7 p.m., at Camas High School.

“I am so excited we get to play Skyview this year,” DeVera said. “I’ve had like 11 dreams about that game, and I don’t know why.”

“Isn’t that your number?” Roche asked.

“That’s really weird,” DeVera responded.

The Camas girls are more confident than ever, but they no longer consider themselves underdogs. Prairie is out for revenge, Columbia River remains one of their strongest rivals, and the additions of Kelso and Mountain View should make the 3A Greater St. Helen’s League even more challenging.

“I feel like people are coming after us this year,” DeVera said.

“It’s good. It means we’ve got to fight harder to keep our spot,” Henson said. “And, hopefully it makes us a better team in the playoffs.”

Ask any of the seniors and they will tell you their goal is to lead the team to state.

“This is the year,” Williams said.

“I’ll be more specific,” Roche added. “This is year we go to the Tacoma Dome.”

“We’re all going to have a picture of ‘The Dome’ in our lockers,” Henson said.

New head coach Chuck Knight appreciates the energy and enthusiasm from the girls, but he said the proof will come from working hard every day in practice and during games.

“Those coaches and players who beat Prairie last year should be congratulated for their effort. It was an unbelievable accomplishment,” Knight said. “But now it’s a new year, with new coaches and new players.

“Little things make big things happen,” he added. “You might not be the best shooter, the fastest runner or the highest jumper, but you can still be in the right place at the right time to make something happen from this team. That’s what I’m going to be looking for from these girls on the court.”

Sophomore guard Kendra Preuninger is back on varsity with the four returning seniors. Sydney Allen, Sierra Brown, Rachel Grant, Lauren Neff, Tatum Schroeder, Sydney Schwartz and Kyla Sumpter move up from the junior varsity and freshmen teams.

Henson is one of the team captains, but she is sidelined with a torn ACL.

“All of the girls have been there for me, and that’s great,” Henson said. “I want to play, but I’m glad I get to still be with them every day. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

On the basketball court is where these Camas girls have grown up, and become best friends.

“For me, basketball is like an escape from everything else,” Williams said.

“No matter what problems you might be having, you know you can come to practice, work hard and be successful,” Henson said.

“And to have great friends on the team with you, who are like family,” Roche added.

“Basketball is not supposed to be a social sport, but we have a good time together and we work hard at the same time,” Henson concluded.