Mount Baker girls’ basketball teammates Emily Yost and Emily Brandland share first names, but that’s not where their similarities end.
Both are listed at 5-foot-11 on the team’s roster, both played together on select teams over the summer and both have the ability to score — and score big.
Between the Mountaineers’ stars, they’ve eclipsed 15 points individually 20 times combined. Yost is averaging a Northwest Conference-high 21.3 points per game, including a 32 and 46-point night, while Brandland is averaging 15.4.
The two combine to make the top-scoring duo in the league at 36.7 points per game through Thursday, Jan. 29.
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“It’s always nice to have kids that can not only get points through the system but can create things,” Baker coach Brenda Ellis said in a phone interview. “Both of them can create offense for themselves.”
But while the commonalities are plenty, it’s their differences that have allowed them to excel.
Yost is the inside player. She can rebound and block shots, and she excels on the low post.
“It’s been awhile since we had size like that inside,” Ellis said. “It gives us a presence inside, not only on offense, but to help on the defensive end.”
Brandland, on the other hand, is the perimeter star. Not only can she nail the 3, but she also can defend against some of the best guards and wings in the league.
“She gives us length that way,” Ellis said of Brandland’s outside presence. “She’s smart. She’s played a lot of basketball.”
And that’s another thing Yost and Brandland share — experience, most of it with each other.
The two have been playing basketball together for a long time and have built a connection on the court over time
“We have a really close relationship off the court as well. Our relationship helps on the court, too,” Yost said in a phone interview. “She always has a good attitude. We know how to read each other. We know where we’re going to cut. We rely on one another.”
Brandland feels the same way.
“I love playing with her,” Brandland said in a phone interview. “She works hard and takes her opportunities, but she knows when to give the ball up. She’s an unselfish player.”
While Ellis, Brandland and Yost all admitted that the duo does whatever it takes for the team to win, much of the scoring load has fallen on their shoulders.
Roughly 64 percent of Mount Baker’s points this year have come at the hands of Brandland and Yost. While both have experience and maturity, that type of load can be tough for any high school player to handle, Ellis said.
“With being a great player, also comes the ability to accept that burden and still compete and perform while feeling that burden,” Ellis said. “They don’t get to where they are without the ability to handle that burden. It’s a great burden. That’s why they do what they do.”
However, when two players are responsible for that much scoring, the team tends to go as the players do. When Brandland hit a two-game slump followed by Yost going on a two-game slide, the Mountaineers lost four straight.
Teams started to key on Yost in the post and the kick out to Brandland became unavailable as a result.
“It was pretty frustrating,” Brandland said. “We knew we had to get out of that funk so we could help our team out, get our wings and get back on track.”
Ellis decided to move Yost to the outside more and get her out of the post so teams couldn’t double team her. With Yost and Brandland both on the perimeter and both having the ability to penetrate, the offense opened back up.
After averaging just 38.8 points per game during the four-game losing streak, the Mountaineers have averaged 56.0 in the next two — a win and a loss. Yost’s and Brandland’s averages are up in those two games, as well. Yost scored 26 in a 63-45 win over Nooksack Valley and 24 in a 52-49 loss at Anacortes, while Brandland tallied 16 and 18.
“My past three seasons, I’ve always been on the inside. Now, I have the opportunity to be outside,” Yost said. “It’s kind of a challenge. ... It’s nice to know that Ellis has that much confidence to allow us to do other things.”
The Mountaineers are still fighting with Meridian and Nooksack Valley for a Class 1A District Tournament playoff spot, but unlike last season, Yost will be around for this one.
Yost broke her wrist down the stretch last season and missed the Mountaineers’ district playoff run last season.
“It was definitely a challenge knowing I couldn’t be out there with my team. We had five seniors, and not being out there with them and helping them was hard,” Yost said. “Coming into my senior season, knowing how I ended last year, (I realized) I have to come compete and not take any day for granted. It’ll be gone after this year and there’s not another shot.”