By Rick McCorkle - The Daily News - Longview, WA
In 1979, the Pittsburgh Pirates adopted the Sister Sledge song "We Are Family" as their battle cry before winning the World Series.
Maybe the Woodland Beavers should consider the same tune as their warm-up music prior to their Southwest Washington 2A League Trico Division girls' basketball matchups.
"We really love each other. There is such a connection with all of the players and we all get along," Beavers' senior center Teresa Schei said. "The connection is really great this year and we all know what we want to accomplish, and we all work together to do it."
The Beavers (12-0) have won six straight Trico Division titles, which includes one under Noll Haffner (1997) and the past five under Glen Flanagan, who is in his sixth year in Woodland. Flanagan has won nearly 80 percent of his games (107-28) since returning to his prep alma mater, which is ranked second in the Washington Associated Press Class 2A prep poll and fourth in the Seattle Times poll.
"I had no idea we would be this good when I took the job," said Flanagan, who previously coached at Portland Bible College. "I had a really good team the first year, and having Ashley (Rodman) for the last four years has also helped. I've had good talent and good athletes, and I've been blessed to have a lot of people share their wisdom with me about the game."
Flanagan teaches elementary school physical education, which gives him a head start on discovering future players to fill his program.
"I find the athletes and give them fitness tests," he said. "The coaches teach them our system, so when they get to us (at the high school level) they'll hopefully know what they're doing. We now have our sixth- through eighth-grade grade teams doing well, so we might be good for a while. This year is better than a normal year, but we should be pretty decent for a number of years."
Senior Brittany Driver, a second-team all-Trico pick a year ago, averages 18 points and 13 rebounds as the leader of the Beavers' attack, with Rodman (14 points), Schei (nine points) and guard Tara Ward (7.5 points) providing additional offensive spark.
Woodland hosts La Center in a big Trico showdown tonight.
"Last year I didn't know where the points would come from on some nights, and this year we have a lot of girls who can score," Flanagan said. "Brittany and Teresa are a lot better than last season, and Destiny Schang (freshman point guard) can also score and play defense. We have good balance, and having Ashley's leadership has pulled it all together."
Rodman believes the Beavers' work ethic has been their key to success.
"We have a good combination of girls who push each other to work hard," she said. "We've never shown that we have an amazing talent or a dominant player, but a good combination of people. Maybe not all of them are basketball players, but they are athletic and are willing to put all they can into a season."
Flanagan is also a bit surprised by the Beavers' recent rankings.
"When I first saw we were ranked number two, I felt a little burdened," he said. "We really try to emphasize to the girls that we're not trying to beat the competition to make ourselves better. We try to play to our potential regardless of the other team. Rankings mean nothing, and I expect the girls not to think about them."
"I haven't thought about the state rankings because we're taking it one game at a time," she said. "They (state pollsters) also said stuff like that in volleyball, and that was a different story. I want us to take each game, win it and make it to district and state."
Recovering from 'wounded knee'
Rodman has had her share of ups and downs during her four years in Woodland. As a sophomore, the 5-foot-7 point guard was named the Trico Division Player of the Year, but suffered a knee injury that required surgery last season hampered her play.
This season, she wants to prove she's fully recovered and earn her second Player of the Year award.
"I had some pain last year, but this year has been great because it feels like a new knee," she said. "I'm really excited about the season."
A healthy Rodman, who wants to major in biology with an emphasis on pre-med in college, has also made a lot of difference in Woodland's defensive play. While the Beavers are averaging 74 points per game, they are allowing half of that (37) on the defensive end because of Rodman's play. In a recent nonleague game against Portland Christian, Rodman made 10 steals.
"Last year was a hard time because I know I was slower and couldn't jump as high," said Rodman, who had to wear a protective knee brace last season. "It was hard for me to know I was in a building process (as a sophomore) and had deteriorated. Coming through that and being able to feel you're getting quicker is definitely a good feeling."
Flanagan believes Rodman has returned to her pre-surgery form.
"She's a lot better defensively and we can put her on a quicker player," Flanagan said. "She's a lot more spunky and cheerful, and she's back to the old Ashley who stays after practice and shoots. My family life is suffering because I have to rebound for her, but I guess I can put up with it for a couple of months."
Three generations of Scheis
The Schei family name has been synonymous with Woodland sports for many decades. While Teresa Schei is a current multi-sport athlete at Woodland, her father Eric and grandfather Ansgar also played basketball for the green-and-white.
"The game of basketball has changed so much since they played," Teresa Schei said. "They're also guys and I'm a girl, so there's a lot of difference in the game."
Schei's grandfather attends nearly all of Teresa's games, and always has words of advice for the Beavers' post.
"He always comes up to me after the games and tells me that I had a nice game, but I should think about doing this or that next time," she said with a laugh. "They (parents and grandparents) are always encouraging in everything I do, and are willing to help me out whenever I need it."
Schei, who wants to study medicine and is leaning toward Western Washington University, is unsure if she will continue her basketball career at the collegiate level.
"I might play intramurals with Hannah Hanes (a Woodland teammate last season) at Western," she said. "I visited the campus and it was beautiful with the water and seagulls.
"I'd like to stay active because I've done sports all of my life and I don't know what it would be like without it."