Younger siblings keep Moses Lake in contention

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  • Connor Vanderweyst/Columbia Basin Herald Morgan Yamane gathers for a shot at the 2016 state tournament.

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    Connor Vanderweyst/Columbia Basin Herald Taylor Stevens (24) focuses on the basket before a lay-up against Walla Walla.

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    Connor Vanderweyst/Columbia Basin Herald Jessica Olson (30) reaches for the ball between a host of West Valley defenders last season.

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    Connor Vanderweyst/Columbia Basin Herald Jamie Loera drives to the basket against Eastmont.

  • Connor Vanderweyst/Columbia Basin Herald Morgan Yamane gathers for a shot at the 2016 state tournament.

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    Connor Vanderweyst/Columbia Basin Herald Taylor Stevens (24) focuses on the basket before a lay-up against Walla Walla.

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    Connor Vanderweyst/Columbia Basin Herald Jessica Olson (30) reaches for the ball between a host of West Valley defenders last season.

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    Connor Vanderweyst/Columbia Basin Herald Jamie Loera drives to the basket against Eastmont.

Jessica Olson and Taylor Stevens, both freshman at the time, found their respective seats at the Tacoma Dome for the 2014 state tournament.

Moses Lake — back on the statewide scene — took on last year’s runner-up Arlington in the first round. Despite an overall poor shooting performance, the Chiefs won handily 46-28.

Emily Olson, Jessica’s big sister, was the stabilizing force with 17 points and nine rebounds.

“My whole time growing up watching her play she worked hard to get better every day and then when she got there that was her reward,” said Jessica Olson, who is a senior captain for Moses Lake.

It was a day that was years in the making.

“Especially the group with Kaitlyn and Emily and the other girls that graduated in that class — they were the ones that stuck with us,” head coach Matt Strophy said.

After a three-year run to the state tournament from 2008 to 2010, Moses Lake was eliminated in the regional round at Gonzaga Prep in 2011 and suffered a decline in turn-out the following season.

“Emily and Kaitlyn and her classmates in that class — they stuck it out,” Strophy said. “They were sophomores and they were thrust into varsity competition as sophomores when they might not have been ready because that’s the year we went 3-17 and lost in the first round of the district tournament as the number six seed and so that class was really meaningful because then when they were juniors and seniors they’re bringing home state hardware.

“That’s really meaningful, as the older siblings of the girls that we have now, that they were willing to stick with it and work toward that goal to get us back there and they did that.”

Currently, the Chiefs have four younger siblings of former players: Jessica Olson, Taylor Stevens, Jamie Loera and Morgan Yamane. All four were a part of the 2016 team that completed an undefeated regular season and took fourth place at the state tournament. And all four are trying to reach the Tacoma Dome for the fourth straight season, continuing the run started by Emily Olson, Kaitlyn Stevens and Jessie Loera.

“Seeing my sister at that level made me want to work on things, strengthening and stuff, to get there also our junior and senior year,” said Taylor Stevens, who was sidelined her freshman and sophomore season with a shoulder injury.

Morgan Yamane and big sister Taylor reached varsity last season at the same time after a year together at JV. Taylor Yamane moved into the starting lineup as an athletic, pesky defender and Morgan was a steady shooter that came off the bench.

“I feel like it brought us a lot closer, playing basketball together and doing a sport together,” Morgan Yamane said. “It’s always fun to reflect on things and so we can talk about it with each other because sometimes when you talk to your parents about it it gets frustrating, but talking to your sister about the team and everything it’s a lot of fun.”

Jamie Loera was able to play two seasons with big sister Jessie after watching her eldest sister Jordan. Jordan Loera graduated from Moses Lake High School in 2011, moving on to play basketball for the University of Oregon.

“Watching her and Jordan in high school as a kid, I would just kind of watch the game and try and analyze but I was kind of really young,” Jamie Loera said. “Jessie would tell me, and Jordan even too, Strophy likes pushing the ball and they like to push the ball and they would help me too with how to do that and so that’s how I play my game today.

“They’ve helped me a lot to know the program and help me help kids coming into the program later.”

Jessie Loera, who is in the midst of her freshman season with the Gonzaga Bulldogs, coupled with Jamie overwhelmed opposing teams last season. The best back-court in the state helped the Chiefs place fourth with a 25-1 record, their best finish since Jordan Loera and — of course — the Noyes sisters were state runners-up in 2008.

“Playing six years before that, it just didn’t ever seem like it’d come to an end,” Jamie Loera said. “These last two years playing with her (Jessie) it was kind of like making the best of it and we did that. We made it to state together, we got to practice together and stay up late in the gym together so doing that was really good.

“Knowing it was coming to an end, it was a good thing but it was also really sad. It was fun playing with her.”

Jessica Olson and Taylor Stevens are seniors this year, while Jamie Loera and Morgan Yamane are both juniors. The advice imparted by the graduated big sisters was simple.

“Just enjoy basketball,” Morgan Yamane said.

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