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Bellevue girls back for more | Prep basketball news

Even with a host of freshman leading the way, the Bellevue girls basketball team achieved historical feats last season.

The Wolverines parlayed a second straight 3A KingCo tournament title into a regional round win over defending 3A state champion Prairie, and eventually a fifth-place finish at the state tournament.

Standout post Shelby Cansler is back after a standout freshman campaign that included 3A KingCo MVP and Defensive Player of the Year honors, and fellow first team All-KingCo selection Mandy Steward gives Bellevue the inside track to another conference crown and state tournament berth.

Head coach Leah Krautter said Cansler, Steward and the rest of the Wolverines are decidedly more cohesive than last year on both ends of the floor, as well as away from it.

"I don't know if they felt like they had pressure on them, or if they were unsure of themselves," she said. "They definitely seem closer this year."

An improved Bellevue could spell disaster for the rest of the conference, and the early returns have indicated it could be an even more balanced group this year.

Cansler is averaging just more than 20 points and seven rebounds per game, with Mandy Steward adding nearly 15 points per contest.

Krautter said with an even more refined skill set, including better ball-handling and outside shooting abilities, the biggest challenge has been reining-in Cansler.

"She wants to play the point guard all the time," Krautter said with a laugh. "She has improved her outside shot a lot and just matured a lot. Her confidence is pretty strong."

The Wolverines have run through each of the four KingCo foes they faced before the holiday vacation, with a much-anticipated game with undefeated Juanita cancelled due to weather.

Glacier Peak, which Bellevue beat in the first round of last year's state tournament, handed them their only loss so far this year and Krautter said she hopes to use her team's trip to the Max Preps Holiday Classic as a measuring stick.

"We're really excited to play some teams from out of state," she said. "I'm excited to expose the girls to that and I think it can maybe serve as a test for us."

The Wolverines are set to host 4A Davis (Yakima) before resuming conference play, and face a pair of games with the Rebels as well as Mercer Island, the conference runner-up last year.

"We can play with any team in the state," Krautter said. "But we still have a lot of work to do."

Newport starting strong

The Knights barely missed the program's first state tournament appearance since the 1989-90 season last year, ending the season with a five point loss to Lake Stevens in a winner-to-state game.

Newport has yet to lose this season, posting a 4-0 record before a Friday game with Skyline was cancelled due to weather.

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