Front row, from left, Jen Estes, Sophia Liesse, Ellie Pederson, Rosa Smith and Emma Boctor; back row, from left, Brooke Filan, Zaria Opara, Elise Hani, Ari Issa and Hannah Sitterud. Andy Nystrom / staff photo

Front row, from left, Jen Estes, Sophia Liesse, Ellie Pederson, Rosa Smith and Emma Boctor; back row, from left, Brooke Filan, Zaria Opara, Elise Hani, Ari Issa and Hannah Sitterud. Andy Nystrom / staff photo

Kangs end postseason play at regional tournament

LW girls are tight on and off the court.

As the wins kept pouring in, the Lake Washington girls basketball squad’s excitement level was rising.

Two victories last year… and already 13 more than that this season and a trip to the 3A regional tournament.

On this thrilling ride, the 3A KingCo champs (15-10 overall) successfully put their motto into play: CTC (Change the Culture).

“I think we have really good team chemistry. We all get along really well, which makes the team super fun, exciting to play with everybody,” said junior Jen Estes, who earned KingCo defensive player of the year and second-team honors.

Also joining the all-league party for the Kangs are first-teamers Sophia Liesse, a sophomore, and Rosa Smith, a freshman, and honorable mentions Ellie Pederson, a sophomore, and Elise Hani, a 6-foot-3 freshman. Jeff Wilson was named coach of the year.

LW ended its season with a 38-35 loss to Snohomish on Saturday at regionals.

While the Kang win column changed, Wilson said his coaching staff stayed the course with how they ran their program this season: “Even last year, even when we were losing games, we really tried to create an atmosphere that was an enjoyable one for the girls.”

Wilson is glad to see LW — which has just one senior in Zoria Opara — sport team unity, including a lot of the girls hanging out in the offseason and going to lunch together.

On the court, the Kangs are especially dangerous on the defensive end of the floor.

“We have such good athletic defenders on the outside. We have Elise — our tall girl down low — protecting the hoop, and we make teams take tough shots, and not all teams are gonna make those shots. We just make it really difficult every possession for teams,” Wilson said.

Pederson said all the players love basketball and cracking the doors open to the gym every day to compete with each other and improve their games.

The bonding experience has been crucial to their success.

“There’s not one person that’s not really good friends on this team, and there’s not individual cliques — we’re all just one big (group), and I feel like that really helps,” Pederson said.

Highlights for Pederson and Smith were beating Bellevue in all three meetings this season, including a 53-43 victory over the Wolverines in the KingCo tourney title game. It was a far cry from losing to Bellevue by 50 points during one game last season.

Freshman Smith has played a vital role in her point guard position this season.

“I’m ready to do whatever the team wants me to do. I’m not nervous, just prepared and it’s been fun,” said Smith, noting that she brings intensity and energy to the floor. “I just love playing basketball and I’ve played point guard for a while. I love touching the ball and so it’s fun to be a leader.”

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