From only three wins in December one year ago, to playing basketball in the Tacoma Dome for the first time in their lives, the Camas High School girls basketball players never lost sight of the dream.
“It was a roller coaster at times, but we were on that stretch where we won 13 games in a row,” said head coach Scott Preuninger. “I always look back at December as when we really found ourselves, came together and made history. It was the first time we had ever been through anything like that. The girls really came through.”
With seven seniors, experienced juniors and some exciting sophomores and freshmen, the Papermakers are determined to get back to Tacoma and play for a state trophy this year. Courtney Clemmer is leading the charge. After sitting out volleyball season to heal her nagging injuries, the senior says she feels back at home on the basketball court.
“After my first day back, I went home and cried because I was so happy. I was able to play ball again with these girls and just hang out. These are the girls I want to be with,” Clemmer said. “We pretty much hit the ground running and we haven’t stopped. We’re not going to stop until we get to where we want to go.”
Joining Clemmer in the fight to defend their league championship are seniors Jillian Webb, Jordyn Wilds, Maggie Wells, Brooklyn Pascua and Ka’iulani Warren. Unfortunately, senior Madison Freemon is out for the season after tearing her ACL during a scrimmage game. Juniors Haley Hanson, Hannah Booth and Regan Cooke give the Papermakers a lot of options on the floor. Preuninger has high hopes for sophomore Marianna Payne, and freshmen Faith Bergstrom and Jalena Carlisle.
“The girls have been bringing energy to practice every day. I can’t really think of a time when there hasn’t been effort,” Preuninger said. “We have girls who are attacking the basket, and they are looking to make the extra pass. It’s fun to watch.”
Camas stumbled out of the gate against 3A state champion Kamiakin, but then rallied to defat Jesuit for its first win of the season. Webb drained a three from the wing to tie the score.
“It was all off that pass from Courtney. She’s just a great teammate,” Webb said. “She had her shot, and then she just passed it back out to me.”
“She was more open,” Clemmer said of Webb.
Clemmer then challenged the defenders to not foul and scored the winning basket for the Papermakers during the final minute of the game.
“Our seniors have been playing Jesuit since they were freshmen, and we haven’t beat them yet until now,” Clemmer said. “For this to be our first win, especially after losing to them three times, this could not have been a better moment to jump start our season.”
Although they have been playing basketball since elementary school, traveling on the road to Eastern Washington last December, reaching the bi-district championship game in February, and then playing in the state tournament at the Tacoma Dome, brought the Papermakers so much closer.
“You get those times on the bus that you don’t get off the court,” Clemmer said. “You have to hang out, but it’s not a ‘have to’ with us, it’s a ‘want to.'”
Which is why the Camas girls are still getting together to play basketball during the holidays.
“We don’t want to be in the gym on vacation, but we know if we want to get back to the dome, we have to be in here,” Clemmer said. “We want to make this a happy place, so people want to be here and want to get better.”