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East basketball: New coach, same plans for Blue Aces boys

Published Nov. 25 at 12 a.m. | Last updated Nov. 26 at 7:16 a.m.

Boys

Coach: Joe Jackson, first season

Last season: 15-7

Top players

Ht.Yr.Pos
DeShawn Terrell

5-8Sr.PG
JJ Normore

6-6Sr.F
Luke Nespor

6-7Sr.C
Jordan Hester

6-3Sr.F

Girls

Coach: James Cole, fifth season

Last season: 11-11

Top players

Ht.Yr.Pos
Relina Johnson

5-8Sr.G
Tori Spann

5-7Sr.G
Raven Baldwin

5-10Sr.F
Eileen Vlamis

5-8Sr.F

Boys

When Ron Allen retired in March as East coach, he finished as the City League’s second-winningest coach with 301 wins. He won 280 games, and two Class 6A titles, at East.

First-year coach Joe Jackson plans to continue that rich tradition.

“There’s been a lot of tradition at East over the years,” Jackson said, “and we’re not trying to change anything as far as that’s concerned. We have high expectations and we want to come out and win games.”

Point guard DeShawn Terrell, a 5-foot-8 senior, is the Aces’ only returning starter and Jackson expects him to be more of a vocal leader.

“He’s a true point guard,” Jackson said. “He’s not a score-first type of kid. He has the ability to score and he’s got good quickness, the ability to get past his man. But he’s a solid all-around guard, and he’s looking to distribute before he looks to score.”

He’s got plenty of players to get to the ball to, especially inside with JJ Normore (6-6), Luke Nespor (6-7) and Jordan Hester (6-3).

“We’ll get scoring from our bigs and we have a lot of balance there,” Jackson said. “Most importantly is defensive rebounding. If we can lock down the paint and get every rebound, we can be in a good situation in a lot of games. If we can’t, that’s how teams get beat, giving up easy rebounds.”

Other players who could have an impact inside are Nick Griffin (6-3) and Tyas Martin, who Jackson hopes to have back in January. Martin suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury.

Sophomore guard Samajae Jones will also be a factor. He played as a freshman and has the ability to cause problems for opponents.

“People can’t give him a cushion because he can pull up or give a shot fake to get by people,” Jackson said. “He creates and he has a solid shot. We’re still working on the defensive end with him, but I think he’s going to be a solid defender.”

Girls

As disappointed as the East girls were after losing to eventual Class 6A champion Heights in the sub-state final in March, they knew the future was bright.

East returns starters Relina Johnson, Tori Spann and Raven Baldwin, and all but 10 points per game.

“I think we’re ready to make a move and surprise some people,” coach James Cole said. “I’ve always said that we have the same athletes as the schools up there, sometimes more athletic, but we need to learn to be disciplined like Carroll and Kapaun. Now we have kids who have been in the program for four years and we can establish that discipline.”

Johnson, a senior, has consistently improved since she showed her pure jump shot as a freshman. Extremely athletic, she is an all-around player with the ability to shoot from three and drive inside. She averaged a team-high 18.1 points, 5.8 rebounds and 3.2 steals.

She provides matchup problems, whether she posts up a smaller guard or forces a bigger player to guard her on the perimeter.

She’s also unselfish, which means opponents cannot focus solely on her. Spann can drive inside where she’s frequently fouled, and Kimirra Lee, a 5-foot-7 junior, is deadly with her pull-up jump shot.

As strong as the guard play is, though, East lacks depth inside and has little height – Raven Baldwin and Jade Carranza are each 5-foot-10. Eileen Vlamis is a tough forward at 5-8 who’s willing to take charges.

“My biggest concern is can we play enough defense inside the post to stop people that can go in to their bigs,” Cole said. “The height inside is a concern. We’ll try to pressure on the perimeter to compensate for that lack of size.

“… But they’re all scrappy. Everything we do is about being scrapping, being tough, even though we’re undersized.”

— Joanna Chadwick

Schedule

November — Friday, at Kapaun.

December — 4, at Carroll; 7, North; 11, at Heights; 14, at Northwest; 20, West.

January — 5, Salina South at Koch Arena; 11, at South; 15, at Southeast (G); 17-19, at Topeka West tournament (B); 22, at Southeast (B); 24-26, at El Dorado tournament (G); 29, Kapaun.

February — 1, Carroll; 5, at North; 8, Heights; 9, Northwest; 12, at West; 19, South; 21, Southeast.