When the adrenaline kicks in and the Juanita High players are rolling, that’s when Hannah Huff feels at her best on the basketball court.
“It’s so exciting. Your heart is pounding and you’re just hyped. Everyone’s clapping, everyone’s jumping up and down and you’re sprinting, and it’s just so fun,” said senior captain Huff, a point guard.
With their team motto — “Do it for HER” (heart, effort and relentlessness) — on tap, the Rebels shot out of the gate strong with a 3-1 league record and 5-1 overall mark at press time. Huff said they break into their motto cheer before each game, and 6-foot junior post Lexi Intong added that when the players get down on themselves, the positive motto lifts them back up.
It’s a full team effort so far this season, and the girls are thriving on playing for each other.
Tops on the stat sheet have been Intong with 17 rebounds and 13 points against Edmonds-Woodway, 5-10 senior captain and forward Hannah Kleppe with 17 points and 10 rebounds against Lake Washington and sophomore shooting guard Brandi White with 21 points against North Kitsap.
In Juanita’s victory over rival LW, Kleppe said the Rebels played together and displayed tons of intensity to bounce the ball in their favor.
“That game is something we look forward to every year,” said Kleppe, adding the she and her teammates put up big numbers because of the two vital factors that she mentioned. The Rebels also had a wealth fans in the stands at the away game that helped push them along the way.
“We play well as a team and always share the ball. We communicate really well,” added Intong.
In her huge game against Edmonds-Woodway, she broke out in the second half by boxing opponents out and grabbing rebounds.
“I think it’s in a way more fun when people are trying to compete more in the key,” she said.
Other Rebel players to watch, according to second-year coach Todd Brink, are sophomore guard Jayla Kidd, 5-11 junior post Kiersten Casper and sophomore point guard Chelsea Hill, a newcomer who moved to the area from Georgia. Senior guard Taylor Byrne is the team’s third captain.
“I think I bring a steady, fundamental approach to basketball. We like to play aggressive defense, so we wanna start it on the defensive end. We’re trying to build a culture here of one of character, being great teammates and being able to count on each other,” said Brink, whose squad finished 9-5 in league and 15-10 overall last year and made the district tournament. Juanita graduated two players in Te’a Adams (San Diego State) and Brittany White.
Brink added that the Rebels are flexible on offense and utilize various schemes to match up against the different defenses that opponents possess.
He said things are working well a handful of games into the season and is excited for the here and now, but also what awaits the program down the road. The Juanita program has already grown from 18 total players last year to 31 this season on its varsity, junior and varsity and C teams. There’s a strong freshman class with a bright future, he added.
Huff is pleased to be a part of the Juanita crew.
“I think it’s been great to grow as a team and bond and I think we’re gonna do great this season,” she said. “More than basketball skills, I think I’ve learned how to work together and really how to deal with emotions when they’re really high. Because as a girls basketball team, we get frustrated easily, we get upset with each other and I think bringing us all back together and working hard as a team (is key).”
Intong and Kleppe mentioned that Saturday team breakfasts and a yearly holiday party are times when the players share familial ties.
“It’s just super fun to play with your best friends,” said Kleppe, who has played with Huff since the first grade and has been on varsity for four years. She loves the game and will miss it when the season’s over. “I think I’ve learned to be a good teammate on and off the court, I’ve learned how to be a leader through example and talking it through. It’s gonna be four years that are gonna be very special to me.”