Prep girls basketball preview: A new approach to the season

Jazz Zenk (right) is expected to be one of the leaders of this season's MTHS Hawks girls basketball squad, a team that will try to improve upon last year's record of 2-18. Kiera Scott (left) will see lots of game action as a freshman this season. (Photo by Jonah Wallace)
Jazz Zenk (right) is expected to be one of the leaders of this season’s MTHS Hawks girls basketball squad, a team that will try to improve upon last year’s record of 2-18. Kiera Scott (left) will see lots of game action as a freshman this season. (Photo by Jonah Wallace)

After a 2-18 record last year, Mountlake Terrace Hawks Girls Basketball Coach Jesica Anissipour decided it was time to toss out her original blueprint for rebuilding a girls’ basketball program at the school and start anew.

The second-year coach will soon find out if an off-season of retooling pays off as her Hawks begin the 2016-2017 season on Wednesday, Nov. 30.

“We’ve mixed up everything: new plays, new everything,” Anissipour said. “Let’s see if we can execute it in a game.”

After previously serving as a coach at a small Eastern Washington high school, Anissipour took on head coaching duties at Mountlake Terrace. She now says that the plans she brought for leading the Terrace girls basketball program have been altered.

“You go in as a coach with a mindset,” Anissipour explained, “but there’s just so many obstacles that get through that mindset that you do have to adapt to a new situation. So that’s what I’m doing right now, and the girls are really, really, really reacting to it well at practice. We’re still young and we’re still growing, but it’s getting better.”

Anissipour has been sitting in on women’s basketball practices at the University of Washington and Bellevue College, as well as the Nalin Sood-led boys basketball practices at Mountlake Terrace High School to pick up tips on how to improve what she is doing with her team.

“I mean, anything I can do to bring something new to the table, I’m doing right now,” Anissipour said.

While Anissipour’s approach to the 2016-2017 season is all new, her roster has a familiar look as eight players have varsity experience from last year.

Senior Jorie Lambert will anchor a front line that will need to count on hustle and desire more than size in order to battle with much taller opponents this season.

“Jorie is one of those players that just wants it, she really wants it,” Anissipour said. “And she’ll do anything she can to get to it. Sometimes it’s a good thing, sometimes it’s a bad thing, but she gets it done. She wants to be a leader on this team and she pushes for it every day. Slowly and surely we are developing that in her.”

Junior Jazz Zenk is also expected to provide team leadership for Terrace this year.

“She’s the all-around package: good leader, hard worker, motivated, everything you want to see as a coach I see in her,” Anissipour noted.

The Hawks are looking to play faster this season. Anissipour is counting on junior Aynika Nuckles to push to tempo, especially on defense.

“Aynika’s speed is amazing and she’s going to be a key factor in our press this year,” she said. “She’s just a natural athlete to be honest. She’s super quick and gets down that court, and that’s what we’re going to utilize with her. “

Nuckles might not even be the fastest player on the Terrace roster — that distinction probably falls to freshman newcomer Kiera Scott. “That girl’s got speed,” Anissipour enthusiastically proclaimed.

“She’s like the quietest person I have ever met, but she comes to play every day and works her tooshie off,” Anissipour continued about Scott. “And she’s just getting the feel of it. She’s probably really scared right now, but she’s starting to develop very fast.”

Putting points on the scoreboard was an issue for the Hawks at times last year, so the play of Nohea Morrison may be key for team success offensively this season. The sophomore emerged in 2015-2016 as the squad’s top long-range shooter and will be called upon again this year to continue in that role.

“She’s one of those kids that once she’s hot, she’s hot, and it’s dangerous,” Anissipour said. “But we’ve got to get her hot.”

Terrace will be without senior Weslynn Blackwell for the first month of the season. Blackwell injured her right hamstring and knee at a Nov. 21 practice and will be limited to physical therapy in December.

“I’ve had that injury; it doesn’t feel good,” Anissipour said. “It’s really hard–everything in your knee is on that spot motion-wise, so it hurts. I feel bad for her.”

While Terrace will compete in the 2A classification if the team qualifies for the postseason, most of its regular season competition will take place in the always-tough 3A Wesco League, a league that includes four teams that competed in state championship tournaments last year. At the 3A State Girls Basketball Championships last March, Arlington finished as the state runner-up, Lynnwood grabbed third place and Edmonds-Woodway earned sixth place. Meanwhile, Shorecrest won the 2A State Girls Basketball Championships. Terrace will face all four teams this season — and will take on rival Lynnwood twice.

The Hawks will get plenty of opportunities to test themselves early as the team has five games in the first eight days of the season; for the entire MTHS Hawks girls basketball 2016-2017 schedule, click

2016-2017 MTHS Hawks Girls Basketball
Head Coach: Jesica Anissipour
Returning players: Weslynn Blackwell, Samra Gebrehiwot, Jorie Lambert, Nohea Morrison, Aynika Nuckles, Trinity Prout, Eliza Sandoval, Jazz Zenk
New players: Kiera Scott
Key dates: opens season Nov. 30 at home versus Oak Harbor; opens Wesco League competition Dec. 14 versus Shorecrest; hosts the Mountlake Terrace Holiday Tournament Dec. 29-30; ends regular season play Feb. 6 versus Marysville-Pilchuck; postseason playoffs begin Feb. 9

–By Doug Petrowski

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