Eastmont girls hoops

Eastmont senior Emily Hardie is a key player for the Wildcats this season. 

EAST WENATCHEE — Second-year Eastmont Girls Basketball Head Coach Ron Stone is expecting his team to be much improved this season. First and foremost, the culture and expectations are changing.

“It’s certainly better. The girls coming in this year understanding the expectations. There is still a lot of show and tell,” Stone said. “We have three regular varsity players back. We’ve lost two for the season who were key contributors last year, junior Kaylynn Schmitten and senior Kaila Vara.”

Both Schmitten and Vara lost the season due to knee injuries. Last season, Vara set a team record with 18 charges. Stone knows that it will be hard to replace. He calls Schmitten one of the smartest players he’s coached in 16 years.

“Now we have to figure out a way to fill in for Kaila’s charges. We work a lot on help defense. Other girls just have to pick up the pace,” he said. “I really like the makeup of our team. We are considerably faster and quicker than we were last year. We have a couple of very capable ninth-graders on varsity. I thoroughly enjoy coaching them. They are smart. They are inexperienced, but that will come sooner than later.”

The two promising freshmen are Adrianna Klinkenberg (5-5) and Kendall Flanagan (5-6). Stone said they are quick, fast and basketball smart in addition to being great competitors and great kids.

The three returning starters are senior Lexi Heimbigner (5-4), juniors Jaden Brown (5-9) and Megan Chandler (5-4). Stone said they were bigtime varsity players last season. He expects them to step up even more this year. Heimbigner typically guards the best offensive player.

Stone said the great thing about Brown and Chandler is they have played soccer and basketball together for a long time. They read each other well.

“Jaden is one of the most athletic kids I’ve coached. She’ll play all five positions. I see her in mismatches in the post just because of her athleticism. I think we can get her in some mismatches. She can shoot and get to the basket. She can run the point too. It’s pretty cool. Very important to have somebody play all five positions,” he said of Brown.

Chandler is the spark plug, the quarterback who runs the offense.

“She’s a good shooter and can get to the basket, but her number one role is controlling everything and keeping the team pumped up. She’s done an excellent job in practice,” Stone said of Chandler.

Other important players include sophomore post Annelise Bauman (5-10), senior post Isley Kuske (5-8), senior wing Emily Hardie (5-7), senior post Isabella Renteria (5-9) and junior post Macyn Templeton (5-10). “

“Isabella did not play last year. She decided to turnout this year. She does a great job in the post. She has picked things up really well,” he said. “Macyn does a great job in the post, taking up space. She works hard for post position.”

Senior guard Maya Phillips (5-9) returns for her senior year after being injured in the three prior years.

“Maya had a great summer. From summer until now, she put more time into basketball than any player I have. Worked hard in the weight room. She can shoot and is smart. She has come so far,” he said of Phillips.

Stone said he likes the makeup of the team. He said they are still talking about being more fundamental, limiting turnovers, boxing out and getting rebounds. He wants to get ball pressure and play stout defense.

They cannot give up layups.

“I understand we are going to give up some. That is the nature of the beast. We can’t give up layup after layup. Our key on the defensive side is to work on the shot clock to keep it running down to put them into a hurry-up offense, taking shots they don’t want to take,” Stone said.

Last season, Eastmont finished 4-8 in the Big 9, fifth place and 8-14 overall. Stone said they did something last year an Eastmont girls basketball team had not done in recent years, win a playoff game on the road at Davis.

They played at Moses Lake for the district semifinals without two regulars and still had a tie game midway through the fourth quarter.

“We just have to get better and want to be playing our best basketball at the end of the season. It would be great for this group to play at home for the first playoff game. That would be our first team goal. It would be so neat to play at home,” he said.

Just like the boys’ basketball team, the girls only have seven home games and 13 road games.

“We have a lot of games on the road this year. We have seven home games. We accept it. We have no choice. The good teams win on the road. The teams in our league are good. Those top teams, we want our program there. It doesn’t come without sacrifice,” he said.

Eastmont begins the season at home Saturday against Bothell. Next Saturday, they are at Mead in Spokane.

Ian Dunn: 664-7157