The Washougal High School (WHS) girls basketball team has been riding high since winning its first state championship last February.
The celebrations that followed didn’t change the players’ steely-eyed focus on improving; many of them started working out to prepare for the 2019-20 season just two weeks after the 2A state championship game.
“They got up at 6 a.m. to come into the gym on their own and train,” said Panthers coach Britney Ervin. “That is just crazy to me. But our depth on this team is so good because of the way they train.”
That work ethic is on display at every practice, where pushups and wind sprints are weaved into drills and players constantly push each other to improve their physical and mental limits.
“So much of it is mentality — toughening up, running for everything, pushing through when you are tired,” Ervin said.
Obviously WHS will miss Beyonce Bea, a four-year starter who helped lead the Panthers to four consecutive state playoff appearances. She scored 30 points in the final game of her high school career, leading WHS to a win over East Valley (Spokane) in the 2A title game. Bea is now a standout player for the University of Idaho.
“We’ve lost a lot of height without Beyonce,” Ervin said, “but we are very long, very athletic and now we are seasoned. We know what it takes to get to state.”
Bea family tradition continues
Three of Bea’s relatives will return to the starting lineup this season — sister Skylar Bea, a junior, and cousins, Jaiden Bea and Savea Mansfield, both sophomores. All three were varsity starters for the Panthers last season and have played together since they were little kids.
“Skylar is very excited about playing without Beyonce,” Ervin said. “Skylar did a great job playing her role last year, so it’s going to be really fun to watch Skylar blossom this year without defaulting to Beyonce.”
Jaiden Bea and Mansfield constantly run and push the pace on the court. Ervin said they rebound well, are long and make the team better every day.
Senior captain McKinley Stotts will provide the Panthers with leadership.
“She’s the one the girls look up to the most,” Ervin said. “For her it will be about coming out of her shell, but she will be a leader absolutely on the court.”
Sophomore Sammy Mederos is another leader on the court, and her coaches say she’s added a ton of confidence. An exciting new addition to the team is freshman point guard Chloe Johnson, who scored 32 points in an eighth-grade game last season.
“Chloe is a great freshman, a great new piece to add to our team,” Ervin said. “We came into the season without a point guard and Chloe stepped up. She took part in every offseason program we offered. She learns fast and is very coachable.”
The Panthers struggled to find their offense in their first outing of the year Dec. 5, losing to W.F. West High School 52-28. During the following week, however, WHS rediscovered its chemistry and confidence, beating a tough Skyview High School team 60-52 on the road on Dec. 10.
The Panthers’ challenging early-season schedule continued with a win over Black Hills High School before losing to 60-31 to Camas High School.
The team knows that it will take a lot of work to return the state tournament to defend its title, but it will have a chance for some bonding as the players will stay together in a cabin for a two-day holiday tournament in Seaside, Oregon, on Dec. 19-20.