EAST WENATCHEE — The early-season chatter around the Eastmont girls basketball team might revolve around its new coach and a host of new players, but fans should notice early on that not much has changed for the Wildcats’ program.
First-year head coach Tessa Bromiley said the Wildcats have “the same expectations and same routines” as they did under previous coach Brent Darnell, who Bromiley served under as an assistant coach for his entire six-year tenure.
“Our coaching styles I think are pretty similar, and that’s why we got along and had successful teams,” said Bromiley, a 2001 Eastmont alumna who helped the Wildcats win back-to-back district and regional championships and reach two state tournaments as a player. “It hasn’t been too much of a transition. (The players) know me well, a lot have played for me before, and luckily we had the summer and fall to get to know each other.”
Maintaining the coaching staff, which includes Bromiley’s father and former EHS girls basketball coach Stan Evenhus in an assistant role, has also been a help in the switch.
The Wildcats lost six seniors from last year’s team that finished one win away from state play, but one of the top players from that squad, fourth-year varsity point guard Nikki Gilbert, is back to run the offense. The 5-footer was a second team all-league selection last year and has earned a reputation as a sneaky game-changing presence due to her ability to score, wreak havoc defensively and quarterback the offense.
Savannah Jackson, a 5-foot-10 sophomore post, is the lone returning player with substantial experience from last season, and she’ll be expected to be a strong rebounder and reliable offensive weapon.
Freshman 5-foot-10 post Abby Waterhouse will share time with Jackson in the paint, as will 5-foot-11 senior Kelsie Best.
The Wildcats biggest additions come in the form of sisters Kylie and Kyra Buterbaugh, transfers from Wenatchee who scored a combined 24 points in Saturday’s season-opening win over Pasco. Kylie Buterbaugh was one of the top shooters on Wenatchee’s varsity team last year, a fact the Wildcats know all too well — she scored 10 points against Eastmont in the annual clash between the two rivals.
“It’s gonna be so helpful for Nikki to have those two extra guards to go to,” Bromiley said. “Obviously all three are great passers … and (Kylie Buterbaugh) gives Nikki some relief at point guard.”
Eastmont will try to keep things balanced between inside and outside play on offense.
“I think we’re able to mix it up,” Bromiley said. “We’re still very strong inside, and (the post players) like to score, and pretty much everyone on the outside can shoot the 3.”
While offensive versatility will be key, Bromiley believes the Wildcats will need to be a shut-down defensive team to challenge league favorites Moses Lake and Sunnyside for the Big Nine title. They showed they have the ability to do that with a smothering full-court press in Saturday’s win over Pasco.
“We’ve gotta be able to hold teams to under 40 points, realistically,” she said. “We have all-around great defensive players, and it’s tough to coach that.”
Brent Stecker: 661-5222