GIRLS BASKETBALL PREVIEW | South Kitsap hopes experience translates into success

Several South Kitsap athletic programs have featured youthful teams this year.

Consider the Wolves’ girls basketball team an exception.

South went through this struggles last season when its sophomore-laden squad produced an 8-12 record, which was the program’s first losing season since 2007-08.

But third-year coach Mike Hulet is hopeful those struggles will translate into success this season. With the exception of Darian Dickey, a part-time starter last season who graduated, the Wolves return all of their significant contributors from last season.

“We’re really excited,” Hulet said. “We were very young last year. We’re really hoping — and are really confident — that will pay big dividends for us.”

The glut of returning players along with the addition of freshmen competing at the high school this season means the Wolves have more players than ever. In addition to the varsity and junior-varsity teams, South has two C teams. Because of that, Hulet hired Geoffery Rilley, whose brother, John, is an assistant men’s basketball coach at Boise State University, to serve as an assistant. Tami Lester-Dame and former Olympic College women’s basketball coach Tammy Helwig also return as assistants, while Chris Olsen, who was South’s boys basketball coach before John Callaghan took over the program in 1998, also is back after taking last season off.

Hulet said his staff was able to focus on more than teaching plays during the offseason. The Wolves opened their season Tuesday with a 49-28 loss against Renton. But Hulet remains excited about his team’s prospects.

“We’re so far ahead just because we have everyone back,” he said.

Leading scorer, 6-foot-2 post Hayley O’Dell, returns after coming off the bench last season. She provides size in the post along with junior Kaylee Yergeau.

But South has depth in other areas, as well. Juniors Marybeth Bray and Brianna Shafer both return at wing.

“[Bray] just gets better every time she steps on the floor,” Hulet said.

Junior Hailey Parker, a standout on the school’s soccer team, also plays wing. She returns after taking last season off.

“She’s just an athlete and is fearless,” Hulet said. “She plays really hard.”

The guard spots figure to feature plenty of competition. Some notable returners include senior Gabrielle Stewart and junior Hayley Romo, who is a three-sport athlete.

Hulet said his greatest challenge early in the season might be developing a rotation.

“That remains to be seen,” he said. “We don’t really drop off much. I think our depth is a hallmark of our team this year.”

The Wolves will look to establish a lineup during the first month with a blend of home and road games. South does not compete in a holiday tournament this year — Hulet hopes to find one for the 2014-15 season — but he hopes to test his team with some nonleague games during this first month. On Dec. 27, South plays at River Ridge, which has advanced to the state tournament during each of the last 10 seasons and has won three state championships. The Hawks compete in the Class 2A Evergreen Conference.

“We always try and get the best competition we can in the offseason,” Hulet said. “Sumner is long, athletic and will get after you. Same with River Ridge.”

Hulet hopes those games prepare his team well for 4A Narrows play. The Wolves open their league schedule Dec. 18 at Bellarmine Prep and then play two days later at Stadium. League play resumes Jan. 3 against Central Kitsap.

“It’s kind of the same old guys,” Hulet said. “Denise Baxter does a terrific job up at CK and they have a great group of kids back. They’ll be very tough as they always are. Bellarmine always seems to be loaded. Gig Harbor will be much improved. Olympia has everyone back.”

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