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Plenty of reasons for optimism for JC programs

The Sasquatch are elusive no longer.

While turnover is the norm in all two-year programs, the Community Colleges of Spokane men’s basketball team has a rare luxury heading into the season: depth.

“This year is unique. We have eight new guys on the roster, but six of our top seven scorers are back,” coach Jeremy Groth said. “That matters a lot when you have guys who know what it takes to win games and how much work they have to put in.”

Even with the highest-scoring team in the league, the Sasquatch finished 19-11 last year and lost a playoff game to make it into the Northwest Athletic Conference tournament.

“So, we are hungry,” said Groth, entering his fourth season as head coach. “Our group is motivated and I hope our work ethic will help carry us into the season.”

CCS returns Jake Love (West Valley), a 6-foot-3 wing, who averaged 15.9 points and 6.3 rebounds a game. He was named the region’s freshman of the year.

The Sasquatch also get back Race Martin, a 6-5 wing from Pullman, who averaged 17 points and led the team with 7.3 rebounds a game.

The team also returns 6-8 post Dalton Patchen (Colton), 6-2 guard Kage Sobotta (Clarkston) and 6-1 guard Jacob DeVries from Richland.

“We’ll be expecting good things from DeVries, who started about half the year” and averaged 11.2 points a game, Groth said.

Groth has also been impressed thus far with freshman Ty Axtell, a 6-1 guard from Riverside, Garrett Hull, a 6-1 guard from Ellensburg and 6-2 wing Levi Taylor (Lewis and Clark), who is trying to get back into the game.

“We had a great spring and summer,” Groth said. “I’m excited about the potential we have with this group. I’m looking forward to seeing all the work our guys put in really pay off.”

CCS women

The CCS women’s basketball team is facing a decidedly different turnover problem, longtime coach Bruce Johnson said.

“We’ve got some new faces, as we always do,” Johnson said. “We have four sophomores back and two were starters.”

The Sasquatch, which finished 15-15 last year, return 5-8 guard Khadija Neumeyer, an all-region selection last year, and 6-foot Gese Gruber.

The team also returns 5-5 guard Rayla Lohman (Lewiston), who played in every game and started a few.

Despite the few returning starters, the team returns players familiar to the system, Johnson said.

Jessica Boyer, a 5-8 guard from Wilbur, played the first semester but had to sit out after she was declared academically ineligible. She’s returned after getting her schoolwork back in order, Johnson said.

The team also has 5-4 guard Brianna King (North Central) who is returning from major knee surgery.

“She’ll be a good one as long as we keep her healthy,” Johnson said. “She’s as good a point guard as we’ve had in a while.”

The team also added Kierstyn Russell, a 5-9 guard from Mead and 5-3 guard Talia Felice from Rogers.

“One thing this year is we have more (Greater Spokane League) kids than we’ve had in a long time,” Johnson said. “It’s hard to get them because Spokane is so highly recruited by everybody.”

Johnson also spoke highly of Jenessa Heine, a 5-11 forward from Kalispell and 5-9 wing Jennifer Gonzales from Pasco. The team has also waited for 5-7 guard Cali Moscrip to join from the CCS soccer team.

Moscrip is “a pretty tough kid. She will step in and be either in the starting group or in the top six or seven players,” he said. “We can go nine or 10 players deep, which is nice.”

NIC men

For a first-year head coach, Corey Symons had a pretty good year guiding the North Idaho College men’s basketball team.

The Cardinals finished 24-8 and third in the Scenic West Athletic Conference. Symons is hoping the returning core of players will mesh with some key additions to match last year’s success.

The team returns starters Braian Angola Rodas, who averaged 13.4 points and led the team with 6.2 rebounds a game. The team also returns 6-7 Kyle Guice, of Coeur d’Alene, who averaged 6.6 points and 5.7 points as as part-time starter; and starting 6-3 point guard Lucas Antunez, of Madrid, Spain.

“We have those three coming back and we got a couple nice transfers,” Symons said. “We are sort of that 6-6 or 6-7 team without any really bigs, so we are going to have to work on rebounding. But, we have a chance to be all right.”

Symons expects to again start Antunez at the point, Guice in the post, Angola Rodas at shooting guard, 6-7 Kaleb Warner at a wing and 6-7 transfer Brayon Blake at power forward.

“We have a couple freshmen who will have to learn through their mistakes, but we can go nine or 10 deep,” Symons said. “That’s the nice thing. We are pretty deep.”

But the team’s success will depend on the new players meshing with the returning starters.

“It’s huge,” Symons said. “We had a good year last year. All three (returners) were huge contributros. They know what it takes to lead.”

Without having much length in the post, Symons expects to run more transition on offense.

“We will try to get up and down the court a little,” he said. “We are going to press. I really like our group. It’s going to be fun and exciting.”

NIC women

The North Idaho College women’s team took a step back last year after an impressive five-year run of either winning the SWAC conference regular-season or tournament titles.

That success also included the 2011 national championship for coach Chris Carlson, who is entering his 12th season guiding the Cardinals.

“I think we’ll improve,” Carlson said. “We went out and brought some kids in to compete for the league championship.”

The team only has four returning players along with eight freshmen. The returning starters include 5-8 guard Monica Landdeck, who was a second-team all-league player. She averaged 12 points and 4.1 rebounds a game.

Also returning are 5-7 guard Maci Benedict, who was the backup point guard last year, and 6-1 post Grace Varcoe, who started several games late in the season.

The team also returns Shelby Cloninger, of Kamiah, Idaho, who only played three games last year. “She played one season at Utah State. She’s pretty dynamic,” Carlson said.

The Cardinals also added 6-foot forward Stormee Van Belle, who transferred from Merrimack College in Massachusetts.

“A couple of the kids we brought in will probably leave after one year and get recruited elsewhere,” Carlson said.

He was referring to 5-10 forward Ebony Norman from Meridian, Idaho, and 5-9 forward Gracie Roberts, of New Zealand.

“They are very talented,” Carlson said. “We recruited to compete so I think we will be better.”

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