Hanford's Steele Works Hard as Three Year Starter
Savanna Steele doesn't just live and breathe basketball.
She sleeps it too.
The Hanford High junior loves the game so much that she shares her bed each night with a Wilson Evolution ball that she has had since fourth grade.
"It has one side of the bed, and I have the other," she said. "The ball just feels natural. I always have a basketball with me."
And that doesn't seem odd at all for the 5-foot-4 point guard, who spends her summers attending camps and tournaments rather than hitting the beach or going to Disney World.
Steele has started since she was a freshman for the Falcons and has her team ready to face visiting Sunnyside at 7 p.m. today in a Class 3A District 5/6 Tournament elimination game.
She has been around the sport since she was in third grade, when Hanford junior varsity coach Bret Akers invited her to be on an AAU team.
Akers said he was sick of losing, so he figured he should get some kids coming in.
Eight years later, nothing Steele does surprises Akers.
"She is extremely competitive and doesn't like things getting in her way of being successful," Akers said. "She has always taken charge. Always wanted the ball. Always the leader."
Some advice Akers gave Steele in seventh grade helped her reach the varsity level at such a young age.
After spending two summers attending a basketball camp at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Steele called up Akers and asked what she needed to do to make varsity as a freshman.
According to her mom, Jackie Steele, Akers told the young athlete she should probably be shooting for making junior varsity as a ninth-grader. Savanna Steele was adamant, though, that she wanted to play varsity.
When Akers asked why, Jackie said her daughter had a quick response.
Jackie said her daughter told her that to play at a good school in college she needed to play four years of varsity.
So, Akers told her she had to work twice as hard if she wanted to be good enough to play varsity right away.
"She never looked back," Jackie Steele said. "I hear all kinds of parents complain about their kids not wanting to go to practice. I've never had to do that with Savanna. She is the first one there and the last to leave and as much as she can play, she wants to play."
Savanna's love of the game can actually cause tension within the family at times.
"Sometimes when I'm frustrated, my mom says, 'If you don't love it anymore, then stop playing,' " Steele said with a smile. "That irritates me when she says that. It's not even a question. I'm just venting. I love being on the court."
That love has translated into a player with good floor knowledge, a steady jump shot and a much-needed floor general.
She also doesn't mind taking the last second shot and having the whole team depend on her, something some athletes shy away from.
"She is the kid who is willing to take the shot," Hanford varsity coach Evan Woodward said. "She understands the pressure involved in the situation. She understands there are ups and downs. You have to have a kid who is willing to have the consequence of it not being glory all the time."
To that end, Steele isn't only focused on basketball. She is also a three-year starter on the Hanford soccer team.
Outside of the athletic venue, she also maintains a 3.96 grade-point average, has taken zero hour classes each year, is the junior class president andmember of the National Honor Society, Key Club and Young Life.
But she admits it's the love of basketball that dominates her life -- day and night.
"It's the best part of my day."
Columbia Basin Big Nine (CBBN) District Tournament Schedule
February 10, 2012
Game 1: 6th Seed at 3rd Seed (7:00 pm)
Game 2: 5th Seed at 4th Seed (7:00 pm)
February 11, 2012
Game 3: Winner game #1 at 2nd seed (7:00 pm)
Game 4: Winner game #2 at 1st seed (7:00 pm)
February 17, 2012
Winner game #3 versus Winner game #4 (time and location are TBD) - Winner #1 seed to Regional Tournament and loser is #2 seed.
Loser game #3 versus Loser game #4 (time and location are TBD) - Winner #3 seed to Regional Tournament and loser is eliminated.
CBBN 3A Girls Scoring Leaders
Here are the Columbia Basin Big Nine 3A girls basketball scoring leaders through January 11, 2012.
Name Points Avg. Games High
Khadidja Toure, Kamiakin 213 19.4 11 33
Angelique Whistocken, Kennewick 188 18.8 10 32
Courtney Nelson, Kamiakin 162 14.7 11 21
Ashley Gray, West Valley 146 14.6 10 24
Colette Gall, Hanford 142 12.9 11 18
Jordan Rodriguez, Sunnyside 139 12.6 11 23
Natalie Bazan, Sunnyside 122 11.1 11 22
Nikki Gilbert, Eastmont 84 10.5 8 22
Sira Toure, Kamiakin 114 10.4 11 21
Savanna Steele, Hanford 111 10.1 11 16
Cierah Alferness, Pasco 98 9.8 10 16
Paige Albrecht, West Valley 58 9.7 6 15
Shaenna Jones, Eastmont 77 9.6 8 14
Emma Sanders, Southridge 92 9.2 10 14
Lexi Rutherford, Hanford 96 8.7 11 21
Kim Harrod, Kennewick 87 8.7 10 17
2011-12 SEASON OUTLOOK
The Kamiakin girls basketball team looks locked and loaded in the early going of the season.
And that spells trouble for fellow Class 3A schools.
Led by Khadidja Toure, who is scoring 23 points per contest in the first five games, the Braves are undefeated and have wins against Chiawana, Richland and Walla Walla -- all schools expected to be in the mix in the 4A.
The Braves are more than just Toure, though, as they return nearly everyone from a team that placed fifth at the state tournament last year.
Back is forward Courtney Nelson, who averaged 11.3 points per game a year ago. Also back is all-defensive team's Sira Toure, Khadidja's younger sister, who averaged 8.2 points per contest.
The Braves also picked up Jalyn Von Oelhoffen and Makayla Guice in the offseason.
Von Oelhoffen played at Richland last season and Guice was slated to play for Pasco, but got hurt before the season started.
Chasing the Braves for the top spot will be Eastmont and West Valley, who both return a lot from successful campaigns a year ago.
Eastmont lost leading scorer Kendra Scott, but have Bekah Waterhouse, Charity Degman, Brandi Gilstrap and Nikki Gilbert back.
West Valley returns Courtney Weber, Lindsay Burns, Stephanie Gibson and Paige Albrecht. The Rams have a ton of size, which should be to their benefit against an undersized league.
After the top three, the rest of the spots are up for grabs.
Kennewick has started the season strong, as the Lions return stud Angelique Whistocken along with seven other varsity players.Senior Kim Harrod has played well in the early going this season, while Panisesi Taimani continues to improve in the post.
Hanford has post Colette Gall back. Gall has a year of seasoning under her belt after scoring 13.0 points per game and making the all-league first team as a freshman.
The Falcons have enjoyed strong early contributions from senior post Lexi Rutherford. Hanford is going through some growing pains and enters league play on a four-game slide, but expect the Falcons to pick it up as the season goes and the team learns to deal with the constant double teams Gall will face.
Sunnyside has one of its best teams in recent memory, as the Grizzlies feature a young roster but one expected to be competitive. Sunnyside hammered Moses Lake last week, beating the Chiefs for the first time.
Pasco lost its leading scorer in Yessica Diaz, but Jonna Schmaljohn is capable of putting up points. The Bulldogs are facing depth issues, and that will be something to watch going forward.
Southridge has struggled out of the gates, as the Suns are extremely young. Junior Emma Sanders will have to carry the load, while the youngsters come along.
Coach: Brent Darnell (Sixth season)
Last State Trip: 2010-11 (Did not place)
Returning players: G Bekah Waterhouse, sr., 5-7; P Brandi Gilstrap, sr., 5-8; G Nikki Gilbert, jr., 5-1; G Kaylee Keane, sr., 5-6; P Charity Degman, sr., 5-11; P Shaeanna Jones, sr., 5-8; G Sattie Whitefoot, sr., 5-4
Stepping up: G Mason Rookard, fr., 5-3; G Erin Boatright, soph., 5-5; G McKenna Mataya, soph., 5-5; G Morgan Mongeon, fr., 5-6; P Savannah Jackson, fr., 5-9; P Alexis Roberts, soph., 5-10
Coach: Evan Woodward (11th season)
Last State Trip: 2008-09 (Did not place)
Returning players: G Ashley Stewart, soph., 5-6; G Sydney Shintaffer, soph, 5-8; G Savanna Steele, jr., 5-4; G Vanessa Roueche, jr., 5-4; F Lexi Rutherford, sr., 5-11; F Colette Gall, soph., 5-10
Stepping up: G Makenna Hall, soph., 5-6; P Bailee Heiman, sr., 5-11; F Miranda Foraker, soph., 5-8; P Shelby Winsor, soph., 5-11
Coach: Tammy Hutchison (Ninth season)
Last State Trip: 2010-11 (fifth place)
Returning players: F Courtney Nelson, jr., 5-10; F Cameron Roueche, jr., 5-8; F Melanie Oord, soph., 5-4; F Sira Toure, soph., 5-7; G Khadidja Toure, sr., 5-9; P Kaylee Nelson, sr., 5-9; P Amanda Miller, soph., 6-0
Stepping up: P Lindsey Schauble, fr., 5-11; G Holly Ellison, fr., 5-4; G Kassie Hanson, fr., 5-4; F Jalyn Von Oelhoffen, sr., 5-10; G Makayla Guice, jr., 5-4
Coach: Tarah Staton (Fourth season)
Last State Trip: 2002-03 (Seventh place)
Returning players: G Janey Valerio, jr., 5-5; G Whitney Hicks, jr., 5-5; G McKayla Sanders, jr., 5-7; P Angelique Whistocken, sr., 5-10; G Ashley Kump, jr., 5-6; P Sam Lester, soph., 5-9; P Kim Harrod, sr., 5-10; P Panisesi Taimani, jr., 6-0
Coach: Aaron Barcot (Third season)
Last State Trip: 2008-09 (Did not place)
Returning players: G Marisol Diaz, jr., 5-5; G Kylie Iverson, sr., 5-7; G Brittany Cruz-Murillo, soph., 5-6; P Adriana Morfin, jr., 5-10; P Yenixa Benitez, sr., 5-7; G Melissa Rodriguez, jr., 5-5; G Jonna Schmaljohn, sr., 5-5; G Cierah Alferness, soph., 5-7
Stepping up: G Annabel Perez, soph., 5-2; G Bibiana Gonzalez, soph., 5-5
Coach: Scott Stiles (Third season)
Last State Trip: Never
Returning players: G Kylie Fraga, soph., 5-8; G Emma Sanders, jr., 5-8; P Breanna Lyons, jr., 6-0; F Ingrid Stein, sr., 5-5
Stepping up: G Mercedes Haberling, fr., 5-5; F Maggie Dean, soph., 5-6; F Kassedy Taylor, fr., 5-9; F Miranda Kruetz, fr., 5-8; P Kelsie Saunders, soph., 5-7; F Nicole Edwards, fr., 5-10; P Kaitlyn Wormington, fr., 5-10
Coach: Rick Puente (Second season)
Last State Trip: 2001-02 (Did not place)
Returning players: F Vanessa Alvarez, soph., 5-8; G Audi Sanchez, sr., 5-2; G Sydnee Hernandez, soph., 5-6; F Addie Palencia, sr., 5-7
Stepping up: G Celia Vargas, jr., 5-6; F Katarina Morales, sr., 5-7; F Hannah Fernandez, jr., 5-7; G Natalia Bazan, fr., 5-6; G Jordan Rodriguez, fr., 5-8; C Monique Willingham, soph., 6-0
West Valley-Yakima Rams
Coach: Keely Teske (First season)
Last State Trip: 2007-08 (Sixth place)
Returning players: G Courtney Weber, jr., 5-5; G Mariah Reyes, jr., 5-10; G Lindsay Burns, jr., 5-10; P Stephanie Gibson, soph., 6-0; P Paige Albrecht, sr., 5-11
Stepping up: W Emma Faubion, soph., 6-0; G Makenzie Kinlock, fr., 5-5; P Ella Vincent, fr., 5-9; P Bridgette Webb, fr., 6-0; G Julia Nathe, jr., 5-6; P Ashley Gray, soph., 6-0