If there was a basketball at the bottom of a barrel, Washougal High School seniors Sarah Brown, Maddie Down and Kendall Utter would scrap for it.
Head coach Charlie Boyce loves their tenacity. In fact, he has become spoiled by it.
“If I don’t have practice started by 3 o’clock, they have it started at 3 o’clock,” Boyce said. “Wins and losses won’t define our season. We want to have a good time. By this time next year, these three girls will be gone and this coach will have a tear in his eye.”
These three Panthers go way back. Brown and Utter have played this game together since they were in fifth-grade. Down joined them on the court the next year. Since then, they have been inseparable.
“Basketball never stops for us,” Down said. “It helps when you’re friends before teammates.”
“I like the adrenaline we have,” Utter said. “There’s never a dull moment.”
“Every time we get together, it’s like a reign of happiness,” Brown said. “There’s no drama, just a lot of fun.”
With the help of returning varsity juniors Megan Townsend and Savannah McDowell, Brown, Down and Utter are ready to pass the torch to a new generation of Washougal girls basketball players. Last season, these veterans reached the first round of the district tournament for the second year in a row. They are still working toward that first playoff win.
“That would be a nice end result, but for now, we just want to be competitive every day,” Boyce said. “We want to love each other as a family, and make sure we’re prepared every game. As long as we love each other, prepare and compete, it puts us into position to win ball games.”
Boyce said the Panthers will battle with league favorites Mark Morris and Woodland for the top three playoff spots, but they also cannot overlook Hockinson or R.A. Long. Every game and every practice is important.
“Our goal is to play more games every year. We got 22 in last year. This year, it would be great if we could play 24,” Boyce said. “Ideal ally, we want a home playoff game to start of with. That means getting first or second in league.”
Washougal opens the season Wednesday in Tumwater, against Black Hills. After playing three of their first four games on the road, the Panthers round out December with seven home games in a row.
“The first game of the season is always the toughest,” Down said. “It doesn’t matter if you’ve been playing for seven years, you still get nervous.”
Game days in Washougal are filled with emotional peaks and valleys.
“Before every game, I get those nervous but fun and exciting butterflies,” Brown said. “Once that ball starts bouncing around, we scrap. It’s all about having fun, and being passionate about the game.”
Time flies when you’re scrapping for basketballs. Brown, Down and Utter cannot believe their high school careers are going to be all over in just a few short months. They are not going to take any day they have left together for granted.
“Make every minute count,” Utter said.