Seahawks girls in basketball playoff hunt

Posted on January 16th, 2022 By:

The Peninsula girls basketball team is in the thick of a chase for one of four South Sound 3A Conference playoff berths.

The Seahawks, 7-4 overall and in fourth place in league play at 5-3, boast a well-balanced, talented group of young stars mixed with some veterans. They’re coached by the experienced Michael Schick. Schick came from Kingco power Sammamish High and has turned Peninsula into a winning program, quickly leading it to a league title and a run to the state tournament in 2019, his second year.

Peninsula’s three league losses have been close ones to conference leaders Gig Harbor and twice to North Thurston by a combined total of 15 points. The young Seahawks are just learning how to close out games. They led the Tides and Rams, but couldn’t shut the door. Schick feels as they become more comfortable down the stretch, they can turn those defeats into victories. Their other loss was a lopsided one against the state’s top-ranked 4A team, Tahoma. Schick chose to play Tahoma after a Bainbridge Island cancelation, knowing that further down the road the experience against top competition will pay dividends.

Riley Peschek slices for a shot between Peninsula's Kaylia Heidelberg (32) and Grace Richardson (24).

Peninsula’s Grace Richardson (24) and Brooke Zimmerman (11) try to pinch off a drive to the hoop by Gig Harbor’s Riley Peschek earlier this season. The teams meet again on Friday. Courtesy photo

The Seahawks can run or play a half-court style, are athletic and can turn red hot in a hurry. They employ multiple zone and man defenses, using a trapping 1-3-1 zone and a 2-3. They are not the tallest team, so use quickness to their advantage and have forced many turnovers from their zone. The improving Hawks will be looking forward to a home rematch against league-leading Gig Harbor on Friday.

Here’s a look at some of their key players.

Kaylia Heidelberg, a 5-foot, 7-inch sophomore guard, has the confidence of a much older player and is described by Schick as one of the top shooters in the state. She has a quick-release rainbow jumper and is an efficient scorer, leading the team at 15 points per game. She possesses a quick, low dribbling style and always has her eye on the hoop. She will shoot from 22 feet and if defenders rush out, use a two-dribble pull-up or go by them for a layup. She plays intense defense and has impressive rebounding ability, leading the team with 6.6 per game.

Grace Richardson is a 5-foot, 9-inch freshman guard who displays a savvy court game and explosiveness to the hoop. A transfer student last year, she has good length to shut down passing lanes and create steals, averaging a team-high three a game. She’s a capable scorer at 13 points per game with a smooth jumper, is not afraid to mix it up to grab a critical rebound, averaging over five a game, and leads the team in blocked shots. She combines athleticism with desire, as displayed while battling down low and and providing emotional spark against Gig Harbor.

Brooke Zimmerman is a 5-foot, 10-inch junior forward who provides Peninsula with a little bit of everything. She has a nice jump shot from the short corner or elbow and can step out and hit a 3-pointer. She scores 11 points per game, is a solid rebounder at 5.5 per game and also averages two steals. She plays good low-post defense and has experience that helps in tight situations. She has been unfortunate with two serious knee injuries, but put in a tremendous amount of rehab work and never quit.

Makena Smith is a 5-foot, 11-inch senior forward who has been in Schick’s program since Peninsula made its run to state two years ago. As a four-year varsity player, she’s a leader who knows the expectations and sets the tone with her experience. She is second on the team in rebounding, averaging over six boards a game, and can block shots. She plays hard on defense, can score when needed and understands that it’s the little things that make a difference in winning or losing.

Sophie Casello is a 5-foot, 8-inch junior guard who is athletic and uses her quickness to get past defenders and to harass offensive players. She goes hard all the time and keeps the pressure on by attacking the basket. She was behind some good guards last year, but stayed patient, worked hard and is now making the most of her opportunities. She is averaging five points and three rebounds per game, knows how to distribute the ball and is a spark plug for the Seahawks.

Ryley Redal is a 5-foot, 8-inch senior guard who coach Schick describes as his X factor. She was all-league honorable mention in the 4A South Puget Sound league last year and is good in transition. She has been described as a glue player for the Seahawks because she keeps everyone together and can do a lot of things to help a team win. She’s a capable scorer, dribbler and defender. She has been known to crack a joke just at the right time for some comic relief when situations get too serious with the intense squad.

Overall, the Peninsula girls basketball program is on the rise, with a mix of experience and youth, and a dedicated coach.

“I am so excited to see where the program is headed,” said Schick. “We have worked very hard and had 18 freshmen show up for tryouts. It’s nice to see so many players want to be involved. Now would I like some of the tall, athletic volleyball players that I’ve seen around campus to turn out? Sure, but I will be working on that.”

“I have been lucky to have very talented assistant coaches plus an athletic director and administration that give their best every day,” he added.

Future emphasis will be on building the Seahawk feeder program to its pre-pandemic level and working hard in the summer to develop current and incoming players. The near-term future also looks bright as the team-oriented and intense Seahawks expect to be a factor in the South Sound Conference race and a group that could return to the state tournament in March.