Selah girls defy predictions to stay in playoff hunt

The coaches who picked the Selah girls basketball team to finish eighth in the CWAC before the season were obviously unaware of freshman sensation Kylie Sherman.

Through the first half of the league season, the 6-foot post has been leading the Vikings in scoring (19 ppg) and rebounding, providing a much-needed inside presence for a team that graduated seven players from last year’s conference championship squad.

“I had seen Kylie play in AAU and I knew she would help us when she got to high school,” head coach Rick Hartman said. “But she has surprised us a bit. I don’t think we’re even close to seeing her full potential.”

The play of Sherman and two other freshmen, guards Jaisha Gibb and Kieryann Mattson, have helped Selah to a 6-4 record at the midpoint of the league season, good for a fourth-place tie with East Valley and Toppenish. 

(Jan. 25 update: Selah is 8-6 in the CWAC and 8-8 overall following a loss to East Valley on Jan. 24. The Vikings are tied with Grandview heading into a Jan. 31 matchup against the Greyhouds.)

Gibb is the team leader in assists and steals, while Mattson has given the Vikings an offensive spark off the bench. With just two returning varsity players — seniors Ashlynn Hall and Roni Rasmussen — and an early-season injury to sophomore starter Jayden Horton, Hartman is more than happy to be in the playoff mix despite being picked eighth in the preseason poll. 

“To be sitting tied for fourth halfway through the league season, I’m ecstatic,” he said. “We’ve played every team tough, and we feel like we’re right there.”

After starting 4-0 in league play, Selah dropped three straight games to East Valley, Grandview and Prosser by a combined 11 points. The Viks rebounded to defeat Wapato on Jan. 4 — behind a career-high 31 points from Sherman — and then split last weekend’s games against first-place Ellensburg and Quincy.

Selah stands at 6-6 overall heading into Tuesday’s home game against last-place Othello, and will travel to Toppenish on Friday — a team they defeated by nine points in their first meeting.

“I’m really proud of this group. They’ve been working their tails off,” Hartman said. “They’re a great group of kids who are very coachable and who want to get better. That’s been energizing for me and the rest of the coaching staff.”

Hartman praised the leadership of Hall and Rasmussen, who have been thrust into key roles this season after the spate of graduations and the decision of two other varsity players not to return.

“Ashlynn always plays hard and sets a great example with her effort,” the coach said. “Roni has also stepped up this year, and she’s been a great leader for the younger kids. She’s been like a big sister to them, and that has really helped their development.”

Three more seniors — Kaleigh Dalrymple, Madysen Muir and Jade Wold — are also seeing consistent minutes — while juniors Jaicene Carpenter and Karly Raap round out the roster.

Hartman said he doesn’t expect his second-leading scorer, Horton (11 ppg), to return from a broken foot she suffered in late December, but he remains confident in the Vikings’ chances with eight league games to go.

“Nobody thought we’d beat anyone, but we finished the first half of the season with a winning record,” the coach said. “We’re a team that doesn’t quit, and we have been able to grind out some close games. That’s been our theme all year, and I expect it to continue.”