On to State!
Feb 21, 09


Nisqually Perfection

Feb 18, 2009
by Charlie Pieterick
The varsity seniors, Max Burnham, Charlie Hoffman, Odin Jacobovitch, Chris Pieterick, Michael Stoffer, and Thomas Timm-Skove stood at center court for probably the last time in Pirate uniform. Q13 News featured the game in their Game of the Week at 10:00 PM. Link to movie
The Vashon High School boys Pirates basketball team completed a perfect Nisqually League season last week by taking their last two games from Life Christian and Charles Wright Academy.  This year’s title is the fifth in a row for the successful program under Coach Andy Sears.

It was Senior Night when the Pirates took the court at home against the Charles Wright Tarriers on Friday.  Prior to the start of the game, Pirate seniors and their parents, including team manager, Jake Theno, and C-squad players Josh Cox, Nathan Osgood, and Joe Shigley (“for the love of the game”) were introduced to the cheers of a packed Pirate gym.

The varsity seniors, Max Burnham, Charlie Hoffman, Odin Jacobovitch, Chris Pieterick, Michael Stoffer, and Thomas Timm-Skove also took the floor with their parents in the pre-game presentation.  Then, as a gesture of his respect for what these boys have accomplished, Pirate Coach Andy Sears called a timeout midway through the fourth period, and had these seniors take a collective bow. The crowd erupted in a standing ovation for the six, who stood at the center court for probably the last time in Pirate uniform.  

This particular group of kids had been on Coach Sears radar screen well before they first set foot on the VHS court.  Nearly all were introduced to basketball through Vashon Island Youth Basketball (VIJB), the youth program on the Island.  When they were in fifth grade, most of them started playing together as a team in the Seattle Parks and Recreation program. They were very successful against a variety of Seattle youth teams.  They later took that success with them to McMurray Middle School where they were league champions in eighth grade under coach Phil Ross. Starting about this time, parent Jake Jacobovitch began arranging more opportunities for them to play in off-season leagues and tournaments.  The boys were growing in stature, skill, and commitment to the game.

Over the last few years, these seniors have been joined by highly skilled and competitive underclassmen to round out a formidable Pirate team.  “This is probably the best team I’ve ever coached,” Coach Sears observed after a strong win a few weeks back.  Indeed, this year’s Pirates are considered by many observers to be the state’s best 1-A team and among Washington’s better high school teams, period.  The consistency with which the Pirates have played all season long speaks to their maturity and commitment.  Though they won’t say it publicly, their hearts are set on bringing the big gold ball home to Vashon from the state tournament in Yakima.

A BIG contribution from among the underclassmen is junior post player, John Gage.  At six foot, nine inches tall, Gage is an intimidating presence down low.  He holds the team record for most blocked shots in a game - 9.   With a sweet jump shot, he is able to score from anywhere and currently averages a team-high 16 points per game.  Going into the last year’s Tri-District tournament as the Nisqually League’s MVP, Gage sank a buzzer beating 3-pointer in overtime to send the Pirates to the state tournament.  Gage is being recruited by several division one colleges.

Gage is joined by senior Charlie Hoffman, a six foot, eight inch presence who, like Gage, can alter and block inside shots.  Hoffman is an excellent rebounder and will capitalize with offensive put-backs.  He also has the knack for hitting the 3-pointer at crucial moments, as he did against league rival Cascade Christian in their recent game here.

Guiding the team is senior point guard Max Burnham.  Burnham is calm and unflappable under pressure.  Having been a varsity player each of his four years, he brings maturity to his team.  He is an efficient scorer and excellent from the line.  He often sacrifices his own points by directing the ball to the right player.

With Max at point, senior Thomas Timm-Skove and sophomore Alex Wegner are free to roam.  And roam they do!  Right through traffic to the hoop!  Each has the ability to split defenders and go up strong.  This forces the defense to drop off the inside big men.  Each is also a skilled defender.  Wegner is a lanky six foot, seven inches which causes problems for his usually smaller foes.  Timm-Skove, while “only” six foot, four inches tall, has a wingspan like a condor.  He uses it defensively for blocks and steals.  He is probably the team’s best on-ball defender. Offensively, he’s able to use his wingspan to lift the ball over and around defenders in improbable ways. Fun to watch!

One of the “gifts” that Coach Sears has been given is a very deep bench.  He goes to his bench early and often without losing production by his team.  First off the bench is senior Chris Pieterick, listed as six foot even, but the shortest member of the team.  What Pieterick lacks in size, he makes up for in hustle and was voted “Mr. Hustle” by the team last season.  Opposing teams are often caught flat-footed when Pieterick comes into the game.  Whether forcing a turnover or spotting up for the 3, Pieterick often makes an immediate impact.  He is a quality defender and leads the team in charges taken.

Juniors Quinn Holert, Matt Kerns, and Elias Weston are not biding their time for the seniors to move on. They make best use of their playing time to make significant contributions.  All are a dangerous outside shooters.  Kerns, like Pieterick, brings a defensive intensity that forces turnovers.  Holert and Weston are attackers, but with the ability to hit the runner or pull up jumper.

Seniors Odin Jacobovitch and Michael Stoffer, and sophomore Kyle Bakker, are big strong boys who are called upon to do the heavy lifting down low.  They take up space and patrol the lane against opportunistic opponents.  Jacobovitch, like Burnham, is experienced, having been a varsity player the past three campaigns.  Stoffer is strong and athletic with a good touch around the basket.  Bakker uses his strength to finish shots despite contact and seems to have an enormous upside, visibly improving with every outing.

These Pirates have worked hard to achieve the excellence they display.  As a team, they play 50-60 games in the off-season, through participation various leagues and tournaments.  Several Pirates have engaged private coaching to refine their skills.  Timm-Skove, Gage, and Wegner, also play on select AAU teams, crossing the country in search of advanced off-season competition.  

A major characteristic of Pirate basketball is unselfishness.  They share the ball well offensively and help each other out defensively.  There are few seams for opponents to exploit.  This season, Coach Sears took advantage of his boys’ speed, depth, and athleticism, by adding a full court trapping press.  It has been very effective at creating turnovers and wearing teams down.  It has also opened up their transition game, the boys running down the court in a choreographed dash for the hoop ahead of their opponents.  

The Pirates move into subdistrict play against Port Townsend at Orting High School on Saturday at 7 PM.  A win will give them top seed from District 3 into the Tri-District Tournament and would guarantee a trip to the state tournament.  Tri-Districts begin the following week at Mountlake Terrace High School.  A loss against Port Townsend would send the Pirates to a loser-out game at the VHS gym on Tuesday, February 24th.