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There’s no time like the present to turn it up.

The Ellensburg High girls’ basketball team will follow its abbreviated 10-2 overall, 9-2 Central Washington Athletic Conference spring run with a season-opening non-conference spree that starts against Class 4A Eastmont at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.

The Bulldogs will also host Class 4A Wenatchee Tuesday before they hit the road for Class 2A Sammamish Dec. 4 and Class 1A La Salle Dec. 7, come home for Class 4A Moses Lake Dec. 10 and take a trip to Class 4A West Valley Dec. 14 in Yakima.

“Our preseason’s going to be nasty because we play Moses Lake: They go to the 4A tournament, and Sammamish has gone to the 4A tournament,” said Ellensburg’s Jeff Whitney, the returning CWAC Coach of the Year. “La Salle plays at the tip-top of their game, and we know we’re going to get everybody’s tip game because whether we’re here or on the road, it’s going to be interesting.”

La Salle came up fifth in their last state trip in 2019-20 and Moses Lake went third in 2017-18.

“We are excited to have a preseason this year,” said Rylee Leishman, a first-team all-CWAC junior guard. “Last year was mentally challenging with so much unknown. Our team is looking forward to some normalcy and success.”

Dylan Philip (a senior guard), Olivia Anderson (a junior forward) and second-team senior forward Katie Blume are also returning all-CWAC picks.

“We definitely have a youth movement going on because we lost a couple of our senior posts last year,” Whitney said. “Now we have four or five freshmen and three of them are going to be able to play right away, so this team’s got a completely different look. I’ve had two good-sized posts and forwards that the three-guards can work around, and now we might sometimes have four quick guards.”

Anderson is always an X-factor as she contemplates which Division I universities reported to include but not limited to Butler, Montana State, Michigan, Washington, Buffalo, Arizona, North Carolina, Princeton, Stanford and Yale to play for in 2023.

“She’ll be our five,” Whitney said. “At 6-5, that helps us.”

The Bulldogs will look to make their 17th state trip since 1973 in pursuit of their first such title after coming up sixth in Class 2A in 2019, and they were Class 2A runners-up to River Ridge in 2007.

“We have an exciting little team, and they’re fun to watch,” Whitney said. “They like to run and play defense and rebound. They do all the little things: If you watch our practice, all we’re doing is full-court things.”

Ellensburg outscored opponents by a 22-point average this spring.

“This team is very diverse,” Leishman said. “I feel this team can play multiple styles on offense and defense. My teammates are very athletic and can play pressure defense as well as a strong zone to slow the tempo down if needed. On offense we can play fast or slow. Our coaches are very knowledgeable and have a sense to what we need to do to create on offense and pressure on defense.”

CWAC play begins on the road against Grandview and incumbent first-team junior forward Natalee Trevino, second-team junior guards Jazmine Richey and Catalina Castro and honorable mention sophomore guard Destinee Medina Dec. 17.

Ellensburg will also head to Prosser, senior CWAC Most Valuable Player Halle Wright and second-team senior guards Leila Taylor and Malia Cortes Jan. 14 and host them in the regular-season finale Feb. 4.

It’s hard to say which players across the conference will be back and when with ongoing COVID-19 protocols and testing, but the Bulldogs are in good shape.

“I can say you’re looking at us, Prosser — East Valley is always competitive in basketball,” Whitney said. “Grandview brings back four really young kids from almost 20 months ago, so I think the league is going to be much more competitive.”

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