Orcas Open Strong

by Cutter Kilgore

Horizon Reporter

Whatcom Community College students need not wait until March to jump in on the madness of college hoops. The Orcas opened league play and greeted a new academic quarter on the same winter night with home victories from the men’s and women’s squads.

            “The guys are tight on and off the floor, which makes my job better,” said men’s head coach, Chris Scrimsher, about an Orcas team that ranked seventh out of 34 teams in the Jan. 4 coaches poll after making a splash with a 12-2 overall start.

            Scrimsher, a 16-year veteran, emphasizes the importance of defense and mental toughness while trying to once again steer his team into the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges tournament with a top-four North Division result. He clearly loves the game. In his office, recycled paper meets the bin via a diminutive plastic hoop, complete with net and backboard.

            “It’s a very young team this year,” he said, amidst the dull, arrhythmic thuds of basketballs on hardwood. “The chemistry is great. This team has the right pieces to be very successful. They’re an exciting group to watch.”

            Forward Marcus Bagnerise, who’s hoping for a basketball scholarship to Long Beach State University and an eventual career in nursing, is ready to face the season’s challenges head on. “I’m a facilitator inside,” he said. He tries to free up open looks for his teammates and “shoot the ball when I have it.”

This season, he added, he’s working hard on limiting his tendency to get into foul trouble. “I just want us to progress and to make myself a better player.”

            Already, the team has shown its grit and fortitude with a one-point outcome where sophomore guard Pat Voeut converted a basket and free-throw in the closing moments of overtime to seal a victory over Highline Community College.

            For the women’s team, second-year head coach Sara Bergner is bubbling with optimism after a 3-1 start to league play and an 8-6 overall start. She shares a common philosophy with Scrimsher. “Defense wins basketball games,” she said. “Expectations are pretty high this year.”

            Bergner noted the stand-out talent level and athleticism of the current crop of players and said that they’re finally “learning to play together, instead of against each other, which is what they’re used to.”

            “Everyone gets along,” said point guard Amanda Tapia with a smile. She is eager to return to the action after being sidelined for weeks with a broken wrist.

            The women’s team returns only two players from a season ago. The Orcas’ youth is a promising prospect for their future, considering the solid start.

            “I’m betting we will make it to the NWAACC and place,” said freshman guard Erika Locker, whose brother, Jake, plays for the NFL’s Tennessee Titans. She scored a team high 17 points in the league opener against Everett. Her goal this season is to become a better leader and elevate her game to the next level. She said that the group has spent a lot of time bonding as a team.

            “We all want to get to NWAACC,” agreed guard Alisha Friberg with a modest laugh. She recited her immediate goals of working on quickness, defense and seeing the floor well in order to help her team reach their desired destination.

            “Alisha is very fundamental with her game, and she takes her time,” offered Scrimsher from his open doorway.

            And the 3-point specialist?

            “Getting threes is Erika’s job,” a fellow teammate chimed in with a grin.

            The Orcas’ play on the road against division rival Seattle on Jan. 28, and they take on Everett on Feb. 1.

Their next home game is on Feb. 4, versus Edmonds. Tipoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. for the women and 6 p.m. for the men. Admission is free for Whatcom students with a student ID.

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