Five questions facing Issaquah-Sammamish squads | Prep sports feature

Winter sports are underway and the Reporter takes a look at the biggest questions area teams face.

What do Eagles do for an encore?

Last season was unlike any in recent memory for coach Jason Griffith and the Issaquah boys basketball team.

The Eagles made a run to the 4A KingCo title game for the first time in five seasons before bowing out in the round of 16 and will return one of the top young guards in the league in sophomore Ty Gibson.

“We’ve asked him to step up and take more of a leadership role this year,” Griffith said. “He works extremely hard on both ends of the floor and that’s something you don’t take for granted as a coach.”

Gone is last year’s leader in Nick Price (Azusa Pacific), but double-digit scoring averages from juniors Jake Henke and Brian Watson have helped Issaquah to a 3-1 start with wins over Marysville-Pilchuck and league foe Roosevelt.

Henke has also been a force on the boards and leads the team with nearly 10 rebounds per game on the young season. Griffith and his players said a more balanced offensive attack will make the Eagles an even more dangerous team this year.

“Every team can stop one guy,” Gibson said. “When there’s multiple guys putting the ball in the hoop, it’s a lot harder.”

Issaquah will face district rival Skyline on Friday in the final game of a quad with the girls basketball teams.

Can a local prep top podium at Mat Classic?

Each of the four Issaquah-Sammamish schools were represented at the state’s final wrestling tournament in 2011-12 and some of the same faces will be back this season looking for a spot atop the podium.

Eastside Catholic sophomore Matt Iwicki finished third at 113 pounds last season and was named Wrestler of the Year for the Metro League and regional tournament. He is currently ranked fourth in the state by Washington Wrestling Report.

Issaquah returns a pair of state competitors from last season in Matt Solusod (220) and Jonathan Norriss (285), who will both be a threat for 4A KingCo and regional titles this season.

Skyline’s Joseph DeMatteo, Griffin Howlett and Tristan Steciw give coach Gus Kiss experienced options in the lower weight classes and Kiss said the competition for those spots has been a high-point of the budding season.

“We have good intensity in the room with those kids,” he said. “They have some of that seasoning and experience.”

A handful of 2012 regional qualifiers including Joey Gurke give the Spartans depth, though Kiss said filling spots in the highest four weight classes would be an issue throughout the year.

Eastlake senior Eric Harper will look to get back to the final four at 182 after a pair of injury defeats sent him to a sixth place finish last season at 170. He won the regional championship in 2012 and is ranked third in the state in his weight class for 4A by Washington Wrestling Report.

Which girls hoops team owns the Plateau?

Eastlake will be forced to rebuild after the graduation of eight seniors that helped the program to the state tournament twice in the past four seasons.

Dominant post Kendra Morrison led that group and her departure leaves head coach Sara Goldie looking to a new group of contributors among a group that has only four seniors.

It has been a pair of juniors in Maggie Douglas and Marijke Vanderschaaf taking control on offense thus far, averaging 10.8 and 11 points per game respectively. Vanderschaaf has also been a valuable commodity on the boards, pulling in more than 14 per game.

Skyline ended last season in a crossover round loss to Stanwood, but is off to a 2-0 start this year behind University of Colorado signee Haley Smith and a roster that boasts four players that stand 6′ or taller.

Coach Greg Bruns and the Spartans are off to a 3-0 start including conference victories over Ballard (53-43) and Roosevelt (73-46).

Along with Smith, Bryn deVita and Rachel Shim have been a major force on the offensive end as the three combined to average nearly 40 points per game.

The two Sammamish rivals, which are not in the same division during this two-year rotation in 4A KingCo, will meet only once, on January 9 at Eastlake.

Do Kim, Eastlake continue to thrive in pool?

The field posed little resistance to the Eastlake and club swimming sensation last season, as Edward Kim took two more state championships in the 200 freestyle and 100 backstroke, each with an Automatic All-American time, after taking 4A titles in the 100 free and 50 free as a freshman in 2011.

After swimming at national qualifying for the London Olympics before the 2012 Games, Kim will likely continue to shave time and rewrite records in the pool during the prep season.

Can Spartans, Wolves or Crusaders break through on court?

Both Skyline and Eastlake were in the 2010 4A state tournament in boys hoops, but neither has been back since.

The Spartans will have a new face at the end of the bench in head coach and former Eastlake assistant Maui Borden, who will be without all-conference selections Will Parker and Lucas Shannon as he takes control across the Plateau.

Coach Brian Dailey and the Wolves have experience in the backcourt in Mike Hwang and Brandon Lester and split the conference schedule’s opening week with a win over Inglemoor and loss to Bothell before falling to Roosevelt.

Eastside Catholic is entering its 14th season since making the tournament in 3A, and will look to second-year coach Bill Liley to continue building a program that ended its season with a three-point loss to Mercer Island in the Sea-King tournament last year.

The Crusaders beat O’Dea 66-51 before falling to Seattle Prep 49-44 to move their mark to 2-2 on the season, all in conference.

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