The Wildcats are quickly separating themselves from where they were last year. Head coach, Jeff Harada, has really started to settle in and install his system. Harada and his team are currently sitting at fourth place in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) and have full control of their own destiny.
Central (15-5, 8-4 GNAC) will go into battle tonight against the longtime rival Western Washington University Vikings (14-6, 10-2 GNAC). This season saw the first victory for the Wildcats over the Vikings in 8 years and this is just one of the many great things the Wildcats have done this season.
Central is holding opponents to 53 points per game which puts them ranked 5th in the country. This is caused by an array things. The common denominator is Jasmine Parker. Parker averages 2.5 blocks per game. Looking deeper than the surface and there you will find the best defensive player in the GNAC, in my opinion, Melanie Valdez. Valdez is not always seen on the stat sheet, but her attitude and aggression on defense proves to be a problem for this conference.
What more do you need to say? 9-1 on the road in GNAC play. The only loss coming to their first trip over to Montana State University-Billings, who currently sits at 2ndin GNAC. A lot of these wins are convincing wins. The Wildcats just came back from Seattle Pacific with a 21 point win. This road streak will be put to the test next week however as they will head to the dreaded Alaska trip. The real challenge here will be the No.2 team in the country Alaska Anchorage, the only team to truly defeat the Wildcats. Central lost 66-42 in the previous meeting.
Coach Harada’s first full class of recruits is a staple for this team. One of the best things to watch about this team is the fact that when the bench steps in, the game does not change. A lot of these younger players are getting significant minutes in the first season. Guard Sadie Mensing, has broken her way into the starting five and has really helped push this Wildcat offense. JonNae Richardson and McKenzie Day are seeing a lot of playing time as well. One cannot forget the freshman scoring machine, Mandy Steward, who averages 10.6 points per game.
The seniors have done a great job at showing the ropes to these younger players. Seniors Jasmine Parker, Alexis Berrysmith, India Matheson, and Melanie Valdez have are having great ends to their careers at Central Washington University. Parker averages nearly a double double with 11.8 points per game and 8 rebounds. Berrysmith is the go to for the Wildcats early on in the game as she has a clear height advantage week in and week out. Matheson provides a huge spark off the bench for Central with her tough defense and post presence. Valdez is still the best defender around, as mentioned earlier. Obviously Jasmine Edwards is not a senior, she is a sophomore, but she is still a veteran on the team at this point. With almost two seasons under her belt, Edwards is really starting to show that she is the future leader of this team.
Listen in to the game tonight at http://www.881theburg.com/
Pregame starts at 6:30 p.m. and tip-off is set for 7:00 p.m.