STORY & PHOTOS BY GLENN NELSON
Kentwood's Courtney Vandersloot evades Meadowdale's Eryn Jones
on a 4A fly-by
TACOMA, March 10 - Now that Kentwood is out of the tournament, via a 67-58 loss to Woodinville, there might be a few extra front-row seats available at the Tacoma Dome. That's because many of them have been occupied by college coaches and scouts with the main attraction being the Conquerors' splendid point guard Courtney Vandersloot.
Even in defeat, Vandersloot put on a show, deciphering the Falcons' triangle-and-two defense for 21 points.
"We had a lot of respect for Courtney," Woodinville coach Steve Segadelli said. "She's just a workhorse."
No player in the tournament improved her stock more as a college prospect. Vandersloot is ranked second among all tournament players with 22.0 points a game, fifth in assists with 4.0 per game and 15th in rebounding with 7.7 boards a game. She led the Conquerors with 18 points per game during the regular season and was named Most Valuable Player of the South Puget Sound League North.
The 5-foot-8 junior has exceptional acceleration and can get airborne, making her a sensational penetrator, where she can finish or find open teammates. The penetrate and dish had been her strength, but she added a jump shot over the summer that has amplified her effectiveness as an offensive player.
Courtney Vandersloot of Kentwood
"I've played a lot against her during the summer, and I don't know anybody who has the all-around game she does," said Woodinville's LeeAnn Palo, who is headed next fall to Utah State. "She's quick, hits threes, has a jump shot, gets to the hoop and passes well. She definitely has always been really tough, but once she got that outside shot, it made her so good."
Vandersloot said she recognized her jumper as a weakness and worked hard on it all summer.
"Last year, I'd penetrate and either look for layups or dish, but I didn't really look to shoot from the outside," Vandersloot said. "Shooting wasn't really in my comfort zone. Once I starting knocking a few down, I realized that it is a part of my game."
Vandersloot has been receiving most of her attention from West Coast Conference schools such as Gonzaga, Montana State, Portland and Portland State, but also has heard from Arizona. She probably has elevated the level of her suitors, though some be hesitant because of her size. She said the college attention grew after her summer with the Puget Sound Flight select team and throughout the season with Kentwood.
Like most girls, Vandersloot says she is keeping her college options open.
"Hopefully, when the right school comes along," she said, "it will really stick out."
The reverse already is true.
Our Complete 2006 State 4A Tournament Coverage Menu:
4A Tournament Gallery
Dozens of images from one of the most competitive State 4A tournaments in years, starting from the championship game and moving back to the beginning.
Elite 11: Tigers Roar
Lewis and Clark had the best combination of size, guard play, defense and coaching in the state this season.
A 4A Family Affair
Katelan Redmon's timely but unexpected 22 points help land a state championship for her and her uncle, Lewis and Clark coach Jim Redmon.
4A Tournament Recap
MVP, all-tournament team with profiles and comments, all scores and statistical leaders.
Practice Makes ... Third
Dara Zack practiced for the moment and came through for University, earning the Titans their highest finish at State.
'Desperation Mode' for Ike
After a quarterfinal loss, Eisenhower tossed all inhibitions aside, and plotted a course to fourth place.
Block Party for T-Birds
Mount Tahoma's unorthodox, frantic style, led by Shauniece Samms' shot-blocking, powered the T-Birds through the consolation bracket for a fifth-place finish.
Big and Defensive
Lewis & Clark and Prairie reach the State 4A championship game with great size and defense.
Stock on the Rise
The Kentwood junior has been the talk of the State 4A tournament and a hit with college coaches and scouts.
Pick Your Poison
There is so much to fear from the four 4A semifinalists, it's difficult to choose which to fear most.
Remember the Titans
When considering the candidates for 2006's darlings of destiny, Angie Bjorklund and University stand out from the pack.
Wednesday 4A Photos
Images from furious first-round action at the Tacoma Dome.
The Wolfpack is Back
One amazing youth basketball team helped produce three of the region's top young point guards, plus the core of the Jackson High School team that qualified for the State 4A
tournament for the first time in its history.
4A Bracket Breakdown
How we see the tournament unfolding, round by round and game by game, to a University vs. Auburn Riverside final featuring stars Angie Bjorklund and Julie Futch.
Elite Eleven: You Go, Girls
Three women - Joyce Walker, Penny Gienger and Kathy Gibson - enjoyed outstanding, role-setting seasons in girl's high-school basketball..
State 4A Team Capsules
Essential information on tournament participants, with power rankings by HoopGurlz.com (not predicted finish). Individual team capsules also can be accessed by clicking team
name from front-page list of qualifiers.
Know where all the seniors are headed after the tournament. We have the most complete list anywhere of Division I commitments by players from Washington and Oregon.
Glenn Nelson is the publisher of HoopGurlz.com and the editor-in-chief of Scout Media (www.Scout.com), an online sports network and magazine-publishing company and subsidiary of Fox Interactive Media. Glenn also founded and coached
the Dragons and Northwest HoopGurlz select girls basketball teams. He previously was a longtime, national-award-winning basketball columnist and writer for The Seattle
Times. His work also has appeared in several national magazines and books. He is co-author of "Rising Stars: The Ten Best Players in the NBA" (Rosen Publishing, 2002).