Meadowdale hopes to build on last season’s success | Girls basketball

Five seniors look to end careers on a high note
By David Pan | Nov 29, 2018
Photo by: David R Pan Meadowdale’s Fatoumata Jaiteh is guarded by teammate Camryn Cassidy (right) during practice at Meadowdale High School.

The Meadowdale girls basketball team is ready to take the next step.

The Mavericks ended a seven-year district playoff drought last season and all of the players responsible for Meadowdale’s breakthrough are back.

“Not a lot of teams get the chance to have the same girls and work for two seasons,” said senior guard Taylor Kesselring, one of five seniors. “It usually changes every season. It’s different for us because we are the exact same team.”

The Mavericks went 0-2 at districts, losing to No. 1 seed Snohomish and Arlington, who finished a tie for third place in the league.

First-year Meadowdale coach Arie Mahler, who was a varsity assistant and junior varsity coach last year, said that getting a taste of the postseason is fueling the players. The Mavericks weren’t pleased to lose by 13 points to the Panthers and by 30 to the Eagles.

“It certainly has provided a hunger for this year’s group,” he said. “Getting blown out in two games, they have a strong desire not only to go back but to have a better showing in the postseason.”

Junior guard Lilly Williams likes what’s she’s seen from the Mavericks as they prepare to open the season against Issaquah on Saturday, Dec. 1.

“The chemistry is there and we’re jelling really well,” Williams said.

Mahler is counting on Williams, who he describes as the team’s junior sharpshooter, to provide plenty of offensive firepower.

“Her range is very deep,” Mahler said. “I’ve seen her defensive game improve. She’s going to be someone to be reckoned with on both ends of the floor.”

Sophomore forward Fatoumata Jaiteh is another player to watch, Mahler said. The 6-foot forward was a strong inside presence during her freshman season last year. But Jaiteh’s skills extend beyond the paint.

“Her game, not only inside, but outside has improved,” Mahler said. “She’s pretty adept at ball handling as well as being a shooter.”

Junior guard/forward Alicia Morrison also has worked on her game. She can be a threat both on the inside and outside.

“Her outside shot is actually something people are going to have to be totally aware of,” Mahler said. “She’s very strong. She’s able to get into the paint, get to the hoop and get to the free throw line.”

When Meadowdale needs a defensive stopper, Mahler likely will look to senior guard Camryn Cassidy.

“She’s quick and athletic,” Mahler said. “She’s got a long wing span.”

The Mavericks have three different players they can play at point guard – Kesselring, junior Soriah Swinton and sophomore Kaisha Stark. All three bring different strengths to the team. Mahler said that Swinton is a very head’s up passer. She knows how to set up her teammates and put them in a good position to score. Stark might be the best shooter of the three and Kesselring is a strong defensive presence, Mahler said.

Kesselring and her four senior teammates – Adriana Valadez, Cassidy Gamble, Kaylee Whatmore and Camryn Cassidy – bring a component that was missing last season – veteran leadership.

The five figure to play major roles in Meadowdale’s success this season.

“In some cases, they are into their fourth year into the program,” Mahler said. “They’ve worked their way up through the ranks. They’ve been through some down seasons. Last year, they got a taste of the postseason. I think they know it’s a long season. They know what it’s going to take to get back to the postseason. They want to finish their high school careers on a high note.”

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