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Player-led off-season workouts have become a welcomed normal for Central Kitsap High School girls basketball players the last several months

SILVERDALE — Saturday’s workout under alternating blue skies, sunshine and threatening gray clouds wouldn’t have been much different for members of Central Kitsap’s girls basketball team on any other weekend.
But after the last seventh months of a forced pause, getting back to anything that resembles a normal routine left the players smiling and hopeful their next season will be a memorable one.

Amaya Saunders, a junior forward, and Hailey Carroll, a junior shooting guard, felt compelled to lead their Cougar teammates in player-only conditioning workouts three times a week since part of the state-mandated restrictions were lifted. The group of seven to 10 players — Saturday’s workout included Carroll, Saunders, senior Lecia Sincere, sophomores Ella Baumgartner, Sophie Driskell and eighth grader Alyssa Neumann (Ridgetop) and Lillian Quinn (CK Middle School) — have been practicing at open basketball courts around the county all summer with their eyes on the possible opening of the 3A South Sound Conference season in December.

Members of Central Kitsap’s High School and Middle School basketball teams are all smiles after a morning conditioning practice at Central Kitsap High School in Silverdale, Saturday, September 26, 2020. The players, aside from CK Middle School eighth grader Quinn, are members of CK’s girls basketball team who have been participating in player-led workouts and practices for the past several months.
Front row, left to right: Hailey Carroll, Amaya Saunders, Lillian Quinn. Back row, left to right: Ella Baumgartner, Sophie Driskell and Lecia Sincere. (Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)

“Even though we don’t have regular practices and we can’t be in a gym, I feel like we are doing more than we ever had to be together,” Saunders said.

“We just have so much more free time. I feel like we’ve done more team bonding than we ever have in the past.”

The players knew video-conference-only workouts and drills weren’t going to cut it once the whistle blows on the season.

That’s when some restrictions were lifted, Carroll and Saunders took to their phones and created a practice schedule the end of May and early June based off what they were able to do with their AAU team, Compete Athletics Basketball Club. Since then they have continued playing inside, outside, no matter the weather, from Gig Harbor to Port Orchard and Bremerton.

“Pretty consistently we had a lot of people going,” Saunders said. “I think we kept really busy throughout the whole thing. Coaches would come until some point then Hailey and I really took over in August.”

Carroll was glad to see underclassmen join them from CKMS and Ridgetop.

“We got some younger girls from the community who plan on coming to CK and the upperclassmen trying to lead stuff,” Carroll said.

“I feel like we’re going to be more conditioned than we ever were if we keep doing these Saturday practices,” Saunders said.

Bainbridge’s Ellie Woolever shoots against the defense of Central Kitsap’s Lecia Sincere (5) and Hailey Carroll (15), with Amaya Saunders (21) in the background, during a non-league girls basketball game at Central Kitsap High School in Silverdale Dec. 27, 2019. Bainbridge won 67-30. (Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)

Saunders and Carroll were none too pleased with the Cougars 0-14 SSC record (3-17 overall) in 2019-20 and firmly believe the work they put in now in building a team will pay off during the season.

“We were going to start out pretty strong last year, we had a lot of post players and just strong people and then we had a lot of injuries,” Carroll said, adding many players were forced to play out of their normal positions.

“Personally, I’m tired of the losing tradition. I just want to start winning and make a good name for Central Kitsap girls basketball.”

A lot of athletes believe all you have to do is go to practice, Saunders said, and that’s not the case.

“There’s so much you have to do outside practice,” she said. “You have to put shots up, you have to run, you need to be strong. I think, when we’re back in regular season, coach will lead our practices but everything outside of that is player led.”

“Getting together, going to the Y, getting shots up” are all part of it, Carroll added.

Central Kitsap’s Lecia Sincere grabs a rebound against Gig Harbor’s Abby Emery during a SSC 3A girls basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020, at Central Kitsap High School in Silverdale. Gig Harbor won 46-28. (Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)

Saunders said the realization she came to is it’s not up to the coaching staff to push the players. Carroll and Saunders chose to workout with the CK boys team during last year’s offseason and saw the success the boys achieved by qualifying for the 3A state tournament in Tacoma.

“I think this year we started to understand it’s really up to players,” Saunders said, adding during Sincere’s freshman season players did lead off-site and player-led workouts.

“She said that was their strongest season,” Carroll added. “You have to put in the extra work if you want to get playing time. If you want to win.”

“We never did that,” Saunders said. “It’s up to us to instill that.”

Lillian Quinn, far left, Ella Baumgartner, Sophie Driskell, Amaya Saunders, Lecia Sincere and Hailey Carroll, right, ham it up after a morning conditioning practice at Central Kitsap High School in Silverdale, Saturday, September 26, 2020. The players, aside from CK Middle School eighth grader Quinn, are members of CK’s girls basketball team who have been participating in player-led workouts and practices for the past several months.
(Annette Griffus/West Sound SportsPlus)
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