Familiar faces and familiar surroundings greeted first-year Tenino High girls basketball coach Brandi Thomas when she brought her Beavers to Elma, her alma mater, for the first time Thursday night.
“The only strange feeling was sitting on the opposite bench,” said Thomas, who earned All-State honors while playing on Eagles teams that finished fourth and sixth at the 2A state tournament.
There was one more familiar factor: The Eagles’ signature pressure defense and fast-paced offense eventually wore down Tenino’s young team — the roster includes four freshmen and four sophomores — for a 51-30 1A Evergreen Conference victory.
Molly Johnston led the Eagles with 13 points, Peyton Elliott added 11, and McKenzie Neary scored 10. Kaylee Schow paced Tenino with nine points on three 3-pointers.
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Thomas’ homecoming was a signature moment not only for her, but for Elma fans. The public-address announcer introduced her not just as Tenino’s coach, but as a former Elma star.
“That was super nice of them,” she said afterward. In addition to her parents, who have traveled along with the Beavers all season, Thomas had support from her former teammates from those strong Eagles teams of a few years back.
On hand were Katie Colard, who went on to become one of the top shooters in Western Washington University history; Carly Meister, who starred at Southern Oregon, and Katie Blanchard.
Thomas, who went on to play four years at Washington State before starting her coaching career as an assistant at Olympia last season, watched her team’s early jitters put the Beavers in a hole.
Turning the ball over six times in the first two minutes, Tenino fell behind 6-0 before Thomas called a timeout.
“I’d told our team beforehand it was going to be a fun game because they like to run and press just like we do,” she said. “We’ve got a young team, but they love that style. I saw them playing in the fall on their AAU team, 90/10, and saw them running and pressing.”
The timeout worked as the Beavers bounced back to take a brief 7-6 lead on a pair of free throws by freshman post Emma Homann. But Elma finished the first quarter on a 12-3 run and was never seriously threatened after that.
Elma coach Lisa Johnson, who coached Thomas in high school, enjoyed seeing her coaching tree expand.
“It’s awesome. Brandi’s become a great young woman,” Johnson said. “I figured she might get into coaching. She’s one of those kids who always loved basketball so much.”
Tenino 10 6 5 9 - 30
Elma 18 7 13 13 - 51
T- Antill 3, Duncan 1, Kershaw 3, Bailon 2, Mathis 4, Letts 4, Homann 5, Schow 9.
E – Elliottt 11, Sutherby 5, Neary 10, Mikel 7, Johnston 13, Rambo 3.