New faces abound for Gig Harbor boys and girls basketball teams
The 2023-24 basketball season is upon us, so this week we will first take a look at the Gig Harbor High School teams. A preview of the Peninsula High teams is coming next week.
We will also get acquainted with the new Tides girls basketball coach Tim Olson, who has visions of helping Gig Harbor again become one of the premier girls programs in the state.
We will start with the first team to take the court this young season. The Gig Harbor boys basketball team blew out Kingston, 74-26, on Nov. 28 and returned two nights later to trounce Thomas Jefferson, 67-38.
The Tides graduated five starters from last year’s squad, which finished 22-4, placed second at the district tournament and qualified for the state tournament. But don’t feel too sorry for head coach Billy Landram. The Tides have legitimate size and are reloaded with talented players who waited for their time to shine.
One of those players is 6-foot-4 junior point guard Cole Browne, a varsity player since his freshman year who displays passion and good court awareness. He led the team in scoring during fall ball and is an aggressive defender who turned heads this summer with his athleticism and creative passing. His can put it on the deck as well, with an explosive first step and combo dribble moves. He led the Tides with 15 points, seven assists and six rebounds against Kingston.
Another emerging star is 6-foot-8 sophomore Michael Masini, who had 13 points, 10 rebounds and a couple blocked shots against Kingston. Masini excelled over the summer with an impressive mix of post-up skills and a face-up game that allows him to attack or shoot from distance. He displayed quick feet, soft hands and a smooth jump shot against Thomas Jefferson.
The Tides have another 6-foot-8 post player in senior center Luke Allison, a rim protector and rebounding machine. Allison boasts a nice jump hook and a quick drop step and led his team in scoring and rebounding against Thomas Jefferson.
In that game Allison established good initial post position and was able to catch, keep the ball high and quickly get into his moves while avoiding ball-hawking defenders who swarm when he dribbles.
Both of the twin towers have also shown the ability to kick the ball out to the Tides’ talented outside shooters when double-teamed and quickly outlet the ball to start the Tides aggressive fast break.
A huge key to the season will be if Allison and Masini can play together for long stretches and dominate the offensive and defensive glass without getting into foul trouble.
Another big factor for Gig Harbor will be 6-foot-4 forward Drake Matthies, who dropped in a pair of threes and scored in double figures in both games. Matthies was a key reserve for the Tides last year. He is athletic, can run the court, goes after rebounds and is a crucial part of the team’s press break. He starred as a receiver on the football field and uses those skills to aggressively come to the ball to alleviate full-court pressure.
Completing the starting squad is a 6-foot-1 scrapper J.T. Grande, who transferred in from Peninsula and brought his lunch pail with him. He’s kept his head down and quietly let his work ethic do the talking. Landram noticed and rewarded the senior with an opening day starting spot because he plays smart and displays good court speed and athleticism. More importantly he understands the Tides have talented scorers and he doesn’t try to force his offense but is content to contribute with his ball handling, crisp passing and a hard-nosed defensive style.
Off the bench
A pair of junior reserve guards came off the bench with positive results in both games. Sharpshooter Quentin Bockhorn nailed two threes in each game and guard Ty Buchanan attacked the rack while keeping his head up and finding his teammates for open shots.
Tough senior point guard Logan Parrish will give up his body to take a charge and will be counted on for his ball handling and his ability to keep the team loose with his constant encouragement. The Tides’ bench also offers even more length in 6-foot-4 junior Chase Connelly — a quick leaper who gives continual effort — and 6-foot-7 junior Collin Nelson, who goes after every rebound and initiates the fast break with his quick outlet passes. Both will be counted on when Masini or Allison need rest or encounter foul trouble. Junior Daniel Porras is an athletic defender who came up with steals that led to breakaways in both games.
Landram’s tenure as the Tides’ coach includes two South Sound Conference titles in the last three years. He likes to run a motion offense that can be difficult to defend but has shown the ability this year to run pick and roll plays and sets that free his post players or attacking guards. Look for the Tides to employ a three-quarter court zone press back to a 2-3 zone with match up principles and score on tricky out of bound sets.
Timberline and North Thurston should offer the toughest competition in the South Sound Conference, but the Tides definitely have the talent to secure another league championship. Landram’s assistant coaches are JV coach Shane Sheppard, Brian Born, Corey Schwab and longtime “C” team coach Todd Davis.
New coach leads GH girls
The Gig Harbor girls begin their season at Olympia at 7 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2. The Tides return first-team all-conference selection Taylor Schwab, a scoring machine who can get hot in a hurry. The Tides went to state last year after posting a 15-8 record and finishing third in the tough South Sound Conference.
The program is under new leadership after former head coach Mike Guinasso took a coaching position closer to his home in Seattle.
Olson, 43, was the first boys basketball coach at Kingston High School and recently won a state championship with his sixth grade Tides Select team.
The Bremerton native was a three-sport athlete for the Bremerton Knights who helped his team win a basketball conference championship for legendary head coach Larry Gallagher. After that he played wide receiver at Central Washington.
Olson earned a bachelor’s degree in community health from Central and a master’s degree in sports administration from Liberty University in Virginia. He was interim athletic director at sports powerhouse Bellevue High School from October 2014 until February 2016. He also owns 9 Round Kickboxing Fitness in Gig Harbor Uptown.
“I’m so excited about this (basketball) program,” Olson said. “I’m looking to build on the rich tradition of hoop here in the Harbor and I want even greater success for our student athletes both on and off the court. We have all the tools necessary to be highly successful.”
Olson called himself a defensive-minded coach who wants to push the ball in transition on offense.
All-leaguer leads Tides
If he wants to get up and down the court quickly, he’s got a Ferrari waiting in the garage with Schwab, who averaged 18 points per game last season. Olson describes Schwab as “the hardest worker in the room and even though she may be known for her scoring, she’s also a fantastic defensive player.”
Schwab is a three-level scorer who is adept at getting through defenders and making tough off-balance shots. She is a capable passer, ball handler and willing defender who should be in the running for conference MVP honors.
Riley Peschek, who played with a Charles Barkley type of style, graduated from last year’s team. The Tides also lost senior forward Abbie Hunter, who suffered a knee injury on the soccer field this fall after enduring a knee injury on the basketball court last year. Hunter was the leading candidate to fill Peschek’s shoes.
The Tides have a returning starting guard in Alex Ferrier, who is guaranteed to give her team all-out effort. Ferrier is a capable ball handler and backcourt scorer with a nice jumper from distance. She is also an unselfish player who may have to score more with a relatively young team around her.
In the paint
The program is looking to returner Finley Wyman and freshman Willow Bonnici to provide some muscle inside.
The 5-foot-11 Wyman was becoming more aggressive each game last year and provided the Tides with some tough rebounds and post defense during a hotly contested district playoff game against Central Kitsap. She took a couple elbows to the jaw and decided to dish out her own punishment as well. The Tides will need more of that competitiveness from her this season.
Freshman Bonnici has been tearing up the AAU travel team circuit for a while and has shown a toughness and aggressive style that Olson likes. She is a capable low-post scorer who can do a little bit of everything on the court and with consistency could be a future star.
Kaliyah Miller is a 5-foot-7 sophomore guard who started some games last year as a freshman. She is a talented scorer who combines a nice shooting touch with good ball handling skills. She looks to be one of the Tides main playmakers this season.
Olson said reserve Beverly Dover had a fantastic offseason and is looking to make her mark this year. Junior Gracie Carey is an aggressive defender who has been snagging repeated defensive rebounds in practice. Freshman Ashlyn Pierce will compete for time at the guard position. Olson is still waiting to finalize his varsity roster so that suggests he’s still open to competition with for the final few spots on the team.
Olson brought back assistant coach Nikki Martin to help develop the guards. Martin, formerly Nikki Scott, is the school’s all-time assist leader and was an assistant coach on Gig Harbor’s state championship team in 2018. James Bonnici is the JV coach.