Young Tulalip Heritage team determined to get back to playoffs

Junior Nikkote Oldham may be a key new player for Tulalip Heritage. She played last year with Marysville-Pilchuck High School. -
Junior Nikkote Oldham may be a key new player for Tulalip Heritage. She played last year with Marysville-Pilchuck High School.
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Last season the Tulalip Heritage girls basketball team finished 8-12 and eked out a playoff birth for the first time in a long time if ever.
Though the team didnt last long in the Northwest 1B playoffs, the berth was a thrilling moment for the team and rookie coach, Tina Brown.
I was proud of my girls, Brown said. Just making it as far as we did was the best thing ever for our girls.
This year, Brown faces new obstacles within: Her team is decidedly young. The majority of last years team have either graduated or are not returning. Of the three returnees (there were 10 on the roster last year), only one, Sheena Robinson, is a senior. Four of the newcomers are freshmen. And because the roster is small, each player will have to learn more than one position.
However, the returnees are optimistic and revved up with confidence.
Even though theyre young, theyre all good, Robinson said of the rookies.
Robinson exudes confidence, as do the other two returnees, sophomore Lateesha Jack and junior Kerri Deen. Though Jack is in only her second year with the team, she knows teammates will look to her for leadership, and feels the pressure. But shes willing to take on that role.
I dont know how to be a leader, she said. I guess this year its time to learn.
During warm ups, Brown relied heavily on Jack and Robinson to illustrate the proper way to dribble and defend. Jack moved with quickness and handled the ball with ease. Other girls watched her. As they practiced the maneuver, Brown yelled out, do it slow so you get it right. Eventually, the new, inexperienced players got a feel for it and caught up with Jack, Deen and Robinson.
Brown said she wants to focus on defense this year because of the size of the team. Last year, she employed the man on man defense but this year she will go zone. She knows with the help of returning players, the new players will catch on quickly.
One of the new players who has shown depth and speed is junior Nikkote Oldham. Oldham transferred from Marysville-Pilchuck High School where she played on the sophomore team. She might have been the quickest on the team, gliding to the rack for a lay up and moving through defensive slide warm-ups with authority. The starting forward said defense is her forte and is the most fun for her. And she welcomes the transition from a team heralding from a high school with thousands of students, to one of a school with just 100 students.
I think its going to be better because I know all the players, Oldham said, adding that next year, she too will take on a leadership role with the team.
As of Nov. 20, the Tulalip Heritage team is Robinson, Jack, Oldham, Deen, Shawnee Enick, Justina Velazquez, Rissa Robinson (Sheena Robinsons younger sister), Tenika Fryberg, Dawn Spencer and Rilla Jones.
Brown said she will invite anyone to try out for the team until the end of November. The first game is Dec. 1 against Bear Creek Christian.
Im excited because my goal is to get to state, Brown said. And by the time the freshmen on the team become seniors, we better have gotten to state, she added with a smile.
As the sole senior on the team, Sheena Robinson moves on the court with a quiet confidence. The mature guard eventually wants to play college ball. Shes considering several area community colleges including Edmonds Community College, where Brown played before she began coaching. But right now, Robinson is thinking about Lummi High School, last years first place team.
Lummi has always been big competition, and Ive always wanted to beat them, she said. We came close, but havent beaten them yet.

Northwest 1B Girls Basketball Division
Coach: Tina Brown

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