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A few shooters reserve ink on a nightly basis, but role players are always keeping teams within striking distance.

Creating possessions, whether by steal or rebounding, can turn a game on its head. Close games are often decided there, along with defense and executing passes.

The parity in Central 2B League and Greater St. Helens League 2A girls basketball this season makes glue players more vital than ever.

Toledo’s Stacie Spahr and Haleigh Holmes or Toutle Lake’s Madison Hald grab enough boards and make key passes to ensure every game is winnable. Woodland and R.A. Long girls complement each other in almost every facet. And others from Wahkiakum, Winlock and Kalama give fans plenty to be upbeat about.

R.A. Long’s Bobbi Clark often dominates the glass. She’s averaged double-digit rebounds since the middle of her freshman year, and now the sophomore has established herself as a premier rebounder in the area.

“My team is depending on my rebounds,” Clark said. “When I go after the ball it’s all or nothing. I’m all in trying to get the rebound and look for a quick outlet. That’s my goal when I get those rebounds.”

Clark entered high school with rare size. She was 5-foot-11 her freshman year, and has since eclipsed 6 feet as a sophomore. That comes with some added pressure, and some don’t always see Clark’s contributions on first glance.

“A lot of people say ‘You only average this many points per game,’ and they don’t look at the other stats,” Clark said. “Without all of those boards, would we have been able to get those points? It’s a big part of the game I think. If I don’t do my job, they might go back and lay it up. It’s definitely a fire inside of me that wants to get that ball.”

That’s a factor Jills coach Jan Karnoski has learned to stress to his players, creating a “points added” stat which accounts for defense and rebounding.

“We count all of the good things they do, minus the turnovers and it comes up to total team points,” Karnoski said. “They get points for rebounds, assists, steals, blocked shots, loose balls and that type of thing.

“A girl might score two points in the ballgame but have 20 team points. We make sure we emphasize the team part of it. We have a lot of scorers on our team, and our guards are known for their scoring ability, but we’re getting more and more production from all the other players. When they see those total team points it makes them feel better.”

Wahkiakum sophomore Jansi Merz fits that mold as well. The Mules are favorites to make a deep run through the state tournament, but would be on less stable ground without Merz’ post presence.

“It makes a huge difference for us,” Mules coach Rob Garrett said. “We talk about doing as much as you can for each possession. Are you doing your job? She puts a lot of time in, and she’s very purposeful about it.”

Garrett noted that her energy has elevated her game, already possessing the raw tools to be a stellar player. With sharpened intangibles, Merz has become Wahkiakum’s leading rebounder.

“I just have to go all out, no matter what,” Merz said of her nightly routine. “Even if there’s people in the way, you have to go and grab the rebound.”

Macie Elliott remains the go-to shooter in Cathlamet, and there’s a few good reasons why. Without Merz, though, her opportunities would likely dwindle.

Woodland’s roster is unique in that it’s made up almost completely of role players. When one catches fire, the Beavers are on solid footing.

Payten Foster and Nicole Guthrie make for a dynamic tandem, while Kaily Christensen, Kelly Sweyer and Kaija Olson have the shiftiness and smarts to create offense even when it’s elusive.

Perhaps the team is most fortunate that the chemistry creates a successful atmosphere.

“I think it’s beautiful and it all flows together,” coach Glen Flanagan said. “Sometimes when you have role players and need someone to step up, it doesn’t always happen.”

Eight miles north, the Chinooks too rely on role players. Kalama has a certified scorer in Akura Rocha, but rely on the rest of the rotation for a few baskets a night. Taylor Tabor is averaging eight rebounds per game and guards the opposition’s best scorer. Nicole Settles is a go-to off-ball shooter and Lily Given works box-and-1’s with Tabor against elite shooters.

“Her and Taylor just give you 110 percent. They’ll run through a wall for you. There’s no switch that goes on low,” coach John Speed said. “I call them my garbagemen because they do everything.”

Then there’s Gracie Stemkoski, who Speed said has stepped up into a major role following a knee injury to point guard Ryann Bailey. The cumulative effect has kept the Chinooks competitive night in and night out.

“We Moneyball it. We look for three or four players to score three or four each,” Speed said. “Just do your job and play good defense.”

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Sports Reporter

Jason is a journeyman sports reporter who has covered the Golden State Warriors, Oakland A's, along with a heavy emphasis on the Oakland Raiders. He comes to Cowlitz County from Oakland, Calif. and is a loving father.

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