WALLA WALLA — The future looks bright for the Walla Walla High School girls basketball team.
A year after capturing the Mid-Columbia Conference title, the Blue Devils look poised to defend their championship this season.
“They’ve been there. They’ve done that,” Wa-Hi coach Jill Meliah said. “It’s one of those things where (if) you can have that confidence, it makes a big difference going into other people’s gyms or even playing against tougher teams here.”
Wa-Hi lost two players, Torri Crawford and Allie Green, from last year’s team that lost to Gonzaga Prep in a loser-out regional game.
Without Crawford, a 6-foot-2 post player, the Blue Devils will have to adjust their offense.
Without a bona fide post presence, the Blue Devils will be taking advantage of their speed and athleticism, Meliah said.
“We really like to get out and run,” Meliah said. “We want to spread the floor. I think even though we might be a little undersized in the post; we’re going to have a size advantage on the wing.”
Meliah said Wa-Hi may trot out some five-guard sets, which would allow numerous players to handle the ball.
The offense will start with junior Mikayla Ferenz, who was a first-team all-conference selection last season.
Ferenz, a 5-foot-10 guard, is a dominant all-around player, Meliah said.
“She really runs things,” she said. “She understands the game really well. She plays basketball 24-7, she’s put a lot of time in the past few months and you can definitely see that in her play.”
Alongside Ferenz, the Blue Devils welcome back forward Madi Doepker, who garnered second-team honors last season. In Doepker, the Blue Devils boast an athletic score-first player, Meliah said.
“She’s strong,” she said. “She knows how to finish around the hoop. She can shoot it from the outside. She’s a valuable tool because she knows how to score.”
Kate Ferenz and Maddy Sirmon, a pair of 5-foot-10 forwards, have received MCC honorable mention. Kate Ferenz, who received the acknowledgment last season, is a capable defender and a very good passer, Meliah said.
But she was hard at work improving other aspects of her game, Meliah said.
“She’s really working on scoring lately and I can see a big difference in her confidence,” she said.
Sirmon received honorable mention after her freshman campaign, but has battled injuries since.
Meliah said Sirmon is a great defender that can attack the boards.
Rounding out the starting lineup for the Blue Devils will be a combination of seniors Jaiden Hodnefield and Kiana Molitor.
Hodnefield, who worked out at the community college during the summer and fall, is a score-first guard capable of putting up points in bunches, Meliah said.
“She’s a dominant shooter and she can shoot it from anywhere,” she said. “I think she’s kind of an X-factor for us because she can put up a lot of points when she can get on a roll.”
As for Molitor, her calling card is her fiery defense, Meliah said.
“That’s the kind of role we’re looking for her this year is to be that defensive stopper,” she said. “Put her on the other team’s best player and let her frustrate them.”
The Blue Devils boast six players that stand above 5-foot-10 this season.
With an abundance of similarly sized players, Wa-Hi must take advantage of mismatches, Mikayla Ferenz said.
“I think anyone can bring it up the floor,” Ferenz said. “I think anyone can set up plays. We all understand the game really well so we can make plays for each other easily.”
The abundance of height and versatility on the roster has Meliah excited at the prospect of drawing up plays.
“They need to know position 1 through 5 for every offense, because it’s not going to matter who we put out there because we have the same type of player,” Meliah said. “It’s a great advantage as a coach because you can put different people in different situations based on the game plan.”
Meliah said Kendall Davis, who swung between junior varsity and varsity last season, will see minutes at guard this year.
Grace Kennedy, a quick 5-foot-7 guard will also be counted on to bolster the Blue Devils’ transition attack, Meliah said.
On defense, the Blue Devils will miss having Crawford down low. With her absence, Wa-Hi must be prepared to play more zone defense this season, Meliah said.
“I think our defense will probably have to change because we relied on Torri a lot,” Hodnefield said.
The Blue Devils open the season with a home game against Lewiston at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday.