Panthers’ Mansfield does whatever it takes to win

Washougal senior Savea Mansfield (right) talks with Panthers coach Britney Ervin during the team's home game against Hudson's Bay on Tuesday, Dec. 14. (Doug Flanagan/Post-Record)

Washougal High School senior Savea Mansfield signs a letter of intent to continue her basketball career at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, South Dakota, in late November, flanked by her parents Jason and Deborah. (Contributed photo courtesy Savea Mansfield)

Washougal High School senior Savea Mansfield will continue her basketball career at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology in Rapid City, South Dakota. (Contributed photo courtesy Savea Mansfield)

If the Washougal High School girls basketball team needs Savea Mansfield to score, she’ll score. If it needs her to rebound, she’ll rebound. If it needs her to pass, she’ll pass. If it needs her to shut down the opponent’s best player, she’ll shut down the opponent’s best player.

Her statistics show evidence of her all-around talents — she’s averaging 12.2 points, 3.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game in the Panthers’ first five contests of the 2021-22 season. But she’s developed into one of Washougal’s most valuable players by doing things that numbers can’t easily measure. 

“She’s unselfish, kind and demonstrates leadership on the floor,” Panthers coach Britney Ervin said. “She expects everyone to compete as hard as she does. Savea relentless on both ends of the floor with an extremely high motor. She’s a stud.”

The Washougal High senior, part of a “really athletic” family that includes cousins Beyonce Bea, Skylar Bea and Jaiden Bea (all current or future University of Idaho basketball players) started playing basketball in the first grade and hasn’t stopped since. 

In fact, she’s played basically year-round since joining the Portland-Northwest Stars club team when she was a sixth-grader and the Vancouver-based ABA Elite Basketball club as a freshman.

“I tried basketball because I tried every sport to see which one I liked the best. I think that’s how it started — trying out different sports,” Mansfield said. “It’s a team sport, and I really like team sports. In basketball, the team is like a family because there’s only 10 to 15 on a team, a small group of girls. I really like how the game goes. Everyone is close and bonds really well.”

Even though Mansfield has considerably improved her offensive skills during the past several years, she still views herself as more of a defense-first type of player. 

“I was not very confident in my freshman year, just because I was a freshman, and it was kind of scary with all of the older girls. I wouldn’t shoot the ball as much,” she said. “Now I’ve gotten a lot stronger and more confident in (my ability) to drive in and take my shots. I’ve become a lot more confident in shooting the ball, but defense is the strongest part of my game. I feel my teammates and coaches rely on my defense.”

Mansfield, a team captain since her sophomore year, has developed her leadership qualities as well. 

“I’ve become more vocal with helping my teammates out and telling them what to do,” she said. “Leadership is a big role (for me). Sophomore year I was a lot quieter because there were older girls ahead of me that weren’t captains, so (talking) kind of felt not as natural. Last year, I became a little louder, but the season was short. Now I’m really trying to help the younger girls, because I know I was a freshman once and needed help, so I try to think about it from that perspective.”

Mansfield may be a year-round basketball player, but she finds time to participate — and succeed — in other sports as well. She placed 54th at the 2021 2A state cross country meet at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco, Washington, helping the Panthers to a third-place team finish. 

“We couldn’t have won without Savea,” Washougal High cross country coach Tracey Stinchfield said. “She is one of the kindest and most supportive teammates I have ever seen. She was always helping the younger athletes with the warm-up drills, checks in on how they are doing and is very encouraging to everyone on the team. She is the first to congratulate everyone and recognize the good job they are doing.”

Mansfield struggled during her final cross country campaign, however, after testing positive for COVID-19 in late August. 

“This fall she had to work double hard because COVID left her lungs working at a poor capacity,” Stinchfield said. “Runs that used to be easy for her left leaving her chest burning. But she didn’t give up and worked hard to maintain her spot on the team, for which we are very grateful.”

“COVID hit me really hard this year. I had it really bad,” Mansfield added. “At the start of the cross-country season, it was really hard for me to breathe. It was kind of scary. I never had asthma or anything like that, so I never had that feeling before. I just couldn’t get the air in. My time was like a minute-and-a-half slower than it had been in previous years, so that was really hard (to deal with).”

Mansfield missed one meet toward the end of the regular season, but recovered in time to participate in the 2A District 4 and state championships.

“Then toward the league and district (meets), my breathing started getting a lot worse, but I wanted to push through and go to state and place. At the state meet, it was a lot better, and so far I’ve done pretty good (during basketball season). I haven’t had to use my inhaler as much, so it’s been going well.”

On Oct. 20, Mansfield announced via Twitter that she will continue her basketball career at South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSMT), an NCAA Division-II school in Rapid City, South Dakota. 

“I visited South Dakota in the beginning of October, and I had already visited (the other interested) colleges,” she said “As soon as I got to South Dakota, I had a feeling that it was going to be my new home. It’s in Rapid City, kind of in the country, kind of where I live. That was a big part of (my decision). I connected really well with the team and coaches when I was there. They have a really good family culture, and I love their values. And they have the academic program that I wanted to go into. It will be hard (to go far away from home) — I am a homebody. But I think the team will become my second family.”

Hardrockers coach Jeri Jacobson wrote in a Nov. 16 Twitter post that Mansfield is “a relentless worker” and that she “can’t wait to coach her.”

“If you look up the phrase ‘hard worker’ in the dictionary, it will most likely have a picture of Savea,” Jacobson said in a news release. “She has a never-ending motor and is an all-around player on both ends of the floor (who does) whatever it takes for the team to be successful. We are excited for what she will bring offensively and defensively for us as well as all the intangibles off the court and in the classroom.”

Mansfield, who will graduate this spring from Washougal High with an Associate of Arts degree from Clark College, intends to enroll in SDSMT’s pre-professional health program, then attend a physician’s assistant school.

“Ever since I was little, my dad would always ask, ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ and I’d always say ‘nurse’ or ‘doctor,’” she said. “I’ve known since I was young that I wanted to go into the medical field. And my uncle is a PA, so I’ve done some shadowing around him and seen some of the stuff that he does. In the medical field, you’re helping so many people, and you get to talk to people all the time, and I really like that part of it.”

Outside of sports and school, Mansfield’s other main interests lie in the outdoors, where she enjoys hiking, skiing and snowboarding. She’s also a fixture at the annual Skamania County Fair, where she’s shown animals since she was 5 years old as a member of the Silver Star Stockmen 4-H Club, which was created by Brian and Jody Bea, her aunt and uncle.

“4-H is a big part (of my life), and it’s also helped my leadership (qualities),” Mansfield said. “I love how 4-H brings everyone together and that we all share the same interests. And I really love animals. I’ve grown up with them. I go on pack trips with our horses and go hunting with my dad. I really like it. (Taking care of the animals) really helps me get into a routine and (establish) a work ethic.”