The Yelm girls basketball team works on agility training during a Friday evening practice. Head coach Russ Riches directs the girls with each drill.

The eight-member strong Yelm girls basketball team is hoping to follow the last few years of consistency with a run to the postseason this year. 

Head Coach Russ Riches said four seniors and four juniors will make up the team this year, but he noted that he plans on swinging junior varsity players onto the team for minutes later this season. 


The Tornados play a Friday afternoon scrimmage.

Last year, the Tornados went 13-10 after a notable run at the West Central/Southwest 3A District Tournament. They ultimately fell to Bethel in the second round, 71-43, then 49-40 against North Thurston in the bottom bracket. 

The Tornados finished third in the South Sound Conference. 

Riches said the main goal is to make a run at districts and make their first run at state in four years. 

Returners who could have a big impact this year include senior shooting guard Imani Tustison, junior wing Lenna Miskimens, junior shooting guard My’Kel Jones, senior shooting guard Madison Plevyak, center Bayleigh Harder and junior wing Samathan Rohwedder. 

While Riches said he’s a little worried that injuries could hinder the potential of the team, he’s confident they’ll be able to find consistency on the court. 


Junior center Bayleigh Harder looks for an opening to pass during a recent scrimmage.

“It’s a long season. We’ll try to intermix those kids where they can and we’ll give our kids some rest, but I really like the kids we have and the roles they play. It’ll be good,” Riches said. 

Senior Bella Foxley, a Rainier Lutheran High School student who lives in the district, will make the transition into the Yelm program. The Rainier Lutheran program recently got cut, so Riches said he’s excited to see her on the team. 

“She’s been a nice edition. She’s that prototypical four kid, not a back to the basket kid, but someone that can take the ball … She’s gritty and works hard,” Riches said. “She’ll be a real asset to what we do.” 

Miskimens will start for the Tornados, which Riches said he’s pretty proud of. 

“Just a really good basketball IQ kid. Quiet, solid kid that’ll be an asset to what we do as well,” Riches said. “All eight kids have that ability to be leaders.” 

Senior Grace Cebula returns to the court this year after a year and a half off due to injuries. She originally started for Yelm as a freshman point guard. 

“She has a very good basketball IQ. She sees the floor well, she can play multiple positions and she might have to do that with our guard makeup,” Riches said. “It’s just a great mix of kids that I really have a good feeling about.” 

Riches is also excited about the team’s defense, which he said is well covered all over the court. 

“There’s a real good defensive sense. They play it hard on the defensive end of the floor. I’m really excited to get into games and see where we need to be, ‘cause I think we can make a run,” Riches said. 


Eric Rosane can be reached at erosane@yelmonline.com.


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