It’s not like Isabella Elwood has grown a couple of inches, giving her a new height advantage to pop jump shots on the basketball court.
And it’s not like this senior on Adna High School’s girls basketball team revamped her mechanics shooting.
“It’s been a confidence thing,” Elwood said.
The revision has been remarkable. She’s gone from playing eight minutes a game last year as a seldom-used backup to a starter playing 25 minutes a game this season and averaging double figures in scoring and rebounding. She scored a season-high 27 points in a 58-48 win against Napavine.
“She’s really taking those minutes and is running with them,” Adna coach Chris Bannish said. “She’s playing great. With the graduation of a couple of seniors, she’s really taken that starting role to heart. We’ve challenged her a little bit.”
And Elwood has responded like an all-star. Recently, Elwood was named the Community First Auto Center’s player of the week.
“Last year, I didn’t feel I could do much,” Elwood said. “I just felt I was a person on the bench. Just went in every once in a while just to give someone a breather.”
Elwood’s revision from “don’t shoot” to “get me the ball” started a couple of months ago during summer ball. “It came gradually,” the 5-foot-10 forward said. “Now, I feel like I can take a role and be a shooter.”
Elwood’s transformation couldn’t have come at a better time for the Pirates. Only two starters – guard Kenya Lorton and forward Devanie Kleemeyer – returned. But those are two gold nuggets are a solid foundation to build a team on. Last year, Lorton was first-team, all-league and averaged 15 points a game. And Kleemeyer scored a season-high 38 points last year, breaking the school’s single-game scoring record.
As the point guard, Lorton is the Pirates’ floor leader.
“She does it all,” Bannish said. “Her ball handling skills are what keeps the pressure off of us. So without her, we’re looking elsewhere for ball handlers. She does an excellent job.”
Unlike Elwood, Lorton is no stranger to being a starter. She’s been in the Pirates’ starting lineup since she was a freshman, making her a four-year stretch. As a shooter-passer, Lorton is a double threat. Scoring a season-high 17 points already this season, Lorton has scored in double digits every game.
“I try to get everyone involved,” Lorton said. “I just don’t want to be too selfish.”
Consider it mission accomplished. Lorton has earned all-league honors the last three years, earning first-team last season as a junior. Lorton has also been all-league in soccer. But this two-sport star hasn’t let athletics eclipse the classroom. She has a 3.8 GPA, making her a true definition of student-athlete.
“It’s hard with sports and school, trying to balance everything together,” Lorton said. “It’s pretty stressful.”
But Lorton has always had the voice of her parents saying: “No TV until your homework is done.”
“My dad is pretty hard on me about schooling and sports and that’s really been helpful because he wants me to get better and get somewhere,” Lorton said.
Kleemeyer is a three-sport star, earning all-league in soccer, basketball and fastpitch. It doesn’t matter if she’s kicking a soccer ball, rebounding a basketball or scooping a grounder, Kleemeyer has the talent to excel.
“Devanie is just physically gifted,” Bannish said. “She’s always been the best player on the team she’s been on. The thing that Devanie needs to realize is that her strengths are inside. So when she goes to the rim, she has the body not many kids have. She needs to learn to use that a little bit more rather than settling for outside shots. She’s slowly getting that. Devanie is an all-around player, just a great athlete.”
As a returning starter, Kleemeyer sees her role as being a scorer and a passer and a leader, someone to helping everyone keep their foot on the accelerator during a game, whether the Pirates are up by 20 or down by 10.
“Me and Kenya this year, we’re the leaders,” Kleemeyer said. “We are the two returning starters. We’re supposed to not just score but give opportunities for others and helping them out because the more we pass it inside the better. Shots are good on the outside, but you kill them on the inside.”
Morgan Trotter, while only a sophomore, is a familiar name for Pirate fans. She’s had brothers play for Adna.
“I guess you could say the pedigree for that family is pretty good,” Bannish said. “They’re pretty basketball rich.”
Trotter, at 5-foot-11, has the height and jumping abilities to be an impact player on offense and defense. But being a sophomore who played on the JV last year, Trotter’s game is still developing.
“Early on she was a little bit nervous,” Bannish said. “But she’s really grown into her own in the last week or so. She just needs varsity minutes. She’s played very few of them.”
A strength to this Pirate team that is off to a 4-0 start is depth. Bannish said he’s got seven players who can start.
“These kids know that our starting lineups can change on a nightly basis,” Bannish said. “They know if they let off the gas pedal a little bit their job is maybe in jeopardy.”
Bannish’s thinking is to reward hard work.
“If you don’t work hard in practice then you’re not going to get rewarded with a start the next game,” Bannish said. “It’s nice to have that depth. It’s hard to find. I don’t think I’ve been on too many teams when I played in college or on teams at the high school level that there were seven kids who could start. Having that philosophy and pushing them in practice really helps.”
It’s a winning formula.