High School Basketball

12 years since Mountaineers’ last state appearance, hard work leads Mount Baker back

Lynden Christian’s Sam Van Loo, left, and Shyann Brandsma, right, battle Mount Baker’s McKenzie Yost for possession of the ball Jan. 28 at Lynden Christian.
Lynden Christian’s Sam Van Loo, left, and Shyann Brandsma, right, battle Mount Baker’s McKenzie Yost for possession of the ball Jan. 28 at Lynden Christian. eabell@bhamherald.com

It’s been 12 years since Mount Baker made it to the state high school girls basketball tournament. That 2004-05 team finished fourth.

The Mountaineers play top-ranked Cashmere on Saturday at 6 p.m. in Wenatchee in a non-elimination regional of the Class 1A State Tournament.

So, what has changed that has helped Mount Baker get back to state?

Part of it were some changes coach Kim Preston made two years ago and the way her players bought into those changes with a team-first attitude.

Preston took over for longtime coach Brenda Ellis in 2015 and guided the Mountaineers to a bi-district appearance last season.

Preston’s philosophy has been to build a program based on pushing girls outside of their comfort zone. It starts with practices, where she makes everything game speed – if not faster.

“We have really high-intensity workouts,” Preston said. “Our goal is to work harder than we would work in games.”

Preston said there was pushback from her players because they weren’t used to such grueling practices. She said they didn’t hustle into the huddle or back from a water break. Her solution was tough love with extra running.

Over time, everyone has bought in, and players started to understand what was expected of them and what it takes to win, Preston said. She said her older players have been an asset because they let the younger girls know what to expect. Players such as junior McKenzie Yost have been Preston’s voice on the court.

“It’s one thing to hear from a coach, but it’s another to hear from a teammate,” Preston said.

Yost is home-schooled but is the longest-tenured Mount Baker player. She’s become more of a vocal leader this year after Preston encouraged her to pull everyone together.

“She holds us to such a high standard. That’s addicting,” Yost said of Preston. “It helps us prepare for intense games.”

Preston’s other goal is to make each player feel as if they have a role.

“It’s been putting people in situations they aren’t comfortable in, and helping them grow from there,” Preston said.

Preston said she hopes girls basketball will continue to grow in Deming to rival the school’s successful girls wrestling program.

“It hasn’t been expected of Mount Baker girls basketball to do well for a long time,” Preston said.

State regional round schedule

▪ Class 3A boys: TBD vs. Squalicum (at Mount Vernon), 6 p.m. Friday

▪ Class 1B boys: Yakima Nation Tribal vs. Lummi (at Mount Vernon), 8 p.m. Friday

▪ Class 1A boys: Warden vs. Lynden Christian (at Mount Vernon), noon Saturday

▪ Class 1A girls: La Center vs. Lynden Christian (at Mount Vernon), 2 p.m. Saturday

▪ Class 2A boys: Olympic vs. Lynden (at Mount Vernon), 4 p.m. Saturday

▪ Class 1A girls: Meridian vs. Seattle Academy (at Mountlake Terrace), 4 p.m. Saturday

▪ Class 2A girls: Burlington-Edison vs. Lynden (at Mount Vernon), 6 p.m. Saturday

▪ Class 1A girls: Mount Baker vs. Cashmere (at Wenatchee), 6 p.m. Saturday