Women’s basketball hopes to break 4-year slump

By Keenan Gray

For the last four years, the Whatcom Community College women’s basketball team has been at the bottom of the Northwest Athletic Conference, compiling an overall record of 32-80, with 18 conference wins.

Anthony Slater was hired this year as the team’s new head coach. Slater has already made an impact on the program, because of his prior experience in coaching. This has led multiple high school athletes to play at the collegiate level.

Slater has been coaching competitive basketball for the last seven years, starting with his own club basketball team, Washington Elite.  Most recently he worked as an assistant coach at Lane Community College in Oregon. When he heard there was an opening at Whatcom, he said he “couldn’t pass this up.”

“I had the opportunity to coach at the collegiate level at Lane as an assistant for two years,” said Slater. “When I heard there was an opening at Whatcom Community College for the women’s team, I decided to make that jump and it is probably the best decision I have made in my college coaching career.”

The women’s team had dropped its first two games of the season in exhibition play. They have won their last eight of 10 games going into their first conference game against Olympic College, which they lost 55-51 at Whatcom Pavilion, Wednesday Jan. 9.

Slater’s style of play is up-tempo and what some could consider a “run-and-gun” type of basketball. This include lots of shots taken and quick defensive possessions.

Gabrielle Edison, No. 21, looks to pass to Elisa Kooiman, No. 35, during a Jan. 9 game against Olympic College.
Gabrielle Edison, No. 21, looks to pass to Elisa Kooiman, No. 35, during a Jan. 9 game against Olympic College.

“I coach how I played,” he said. “For many years I played at such a fast pace, and when you look around this conference, all the teams that are successful play up-tempo basketball. I would try to utilize the resources we had on the court and put it all into one bowl. I think tempo basketball is the only way we can play.”

Statistically the team leads the conference in defensive and total rebounds, and field goals attempted per game. They are also second in the conference in points per game, and third in other multiple categories.

Sophomores Allison Hadaway and Elisa Kooiman, are two players on the team who have helped the Orcas this season on the offensive and defensive sides. Both Hadaway and Kooiman are fourth and fifth in the conference in scoring with 20.7 and 19.5 points per game.

According to Slater, both Kooiman and Hadaway’s energy and enthusiasm, coupled with their statistics, “is a big reason for the success they are having so far.”

“These two bring leadership. Besides all the scoring they do, they bring their toughness and are mentally in the game. That’s a coach’s dream, to be able to have two dynamic players on the floor, who can flat-out score in and out of the paint and defend, too. But more so, it’s the leadership they bring to the young players on this team.”

Kooiman, a transfer student from Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho, has returned to Whatcom County this season after having been in Idaho for a year with the Nighthawks as a bench player. Kooiman graduated from Lynden High School in 2017 and was All-Northwest Conference and State selection and a state champion for the Lions.

“I am overall happy with my decision to come back home,” said Kooiman. “Playing here at Whatcom, I have been having a lot of fun and I’ve gained back a lot of confidence that I lost a little bit last year.”

However, Kooiman said her time at Northwest Nazarene “has not only made me a better player, but an even better teammate and person.”

The women’s team is full of familiar faces with whom Kooiman had played against in her youth and in high school. Five women on the team from Whatcom County include Gabby Edison and Carmelita Rodriguez from Ferndale, Rachel Sande from Nooksack Valley, Samantha Hruby from Sehome, and Hannah Larkin from Squalicum.

“It’s really cool to get to know them off the court, since I have played against these girls since fifth grade. I did a little bit of training with them here and there, so I did kind of know them from that, but you really don’t get to know them till you play on the same team,” she said. “They have now become some of my best friends.”

Hruby and Edison are the third and fourth leading scorers on the team, averaging 11.3 and 9.7 points per game. Edison is also second on the team in rebounding averaging 8.1 total rebounds per game.

Slater said he knows his team can do damage to other teams further along in the season because of the confidence he has built into his players heads, which he says can lead to a playoff berth and a potential conference championship.

“I think for us it is just staying together till the end,” Slater said, “We want to keep the mindset on what got us here to this point. It isn’t about individuals here, it’s about a team and togetherness. We speak family and I think it speaks value because we are successful now. So we need to continue to work hard and stay focused, and I think we can accomplish big things.”

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