Timberwolves aim to get back to state tournament | Boys basketball

Seniors Liddell, Olesen lead a Jackson team with plenty of talent
By David Robert Pan | Dec 07, 2018
Photo by: David R Pan Jackson senior Christian Liddell brings the ball up the court against North Creek during a jamboree game at Bothell High School.

Jackson coach Steve Johnson has a problem that most of his rivals would like to have – an abundance of talent.

The Timberwolves only graduated three seniors from last season’s district playoff squad and none of them were starting at the end of the season.

The return of the rest of the team and the addition of some junior varsity players means that playing time will be at a premium.

“I’m excited about our great depth,” Johnson said. “We have a lot of good players. It’s a good problem to have – deciding who to play and who earns playing time. … Managing that depth and using it to our advantage will be a challenge.”

Two players who will figure prominently throughout the season are first-team, all-league guard Christian Liddell and second-team, all-league guard Ben Olesen.

Liddell scored a team-high 22 points to lead Jackson to a season-opening 75-58 victory over North Kitsap and then finished with 26 points in a 73-62 win over Skyview in nonconference boys basketball action last week

“He’s one of the best shooters on our team,” Johnson said. “He brings a lot to the table.”

The Timberwolves are glad that Olesen is back healthy after breaking his wrist playing football. The Jackson senior was cleared to practice in late November.

“He brings our team together. He’s our energy booster,” Liddell said. “All during the fall league, we didn’t have him. We still got to the championship game, but you could tell our team didn’t have that same spark that he would bring.”

Johnson, like everyone else, was concerned when he heard about Olesen’s football injury.

“He’s one of our best players. More than that, he’s one of our hardest workers,” Johnson said. “I think he had two or three game-winning shots last year. To say he’s an important part of the team is a massive understatement.”

Olesen again will be playing point guard and he’ll be joined by junior Jesse Hoiby and sophomore Bryston Galbert.

While the Timberwolves don’t have any especially tall centers, they have more than enough big bodies including Jaylen Searles (6-foot-6), Kyle Bigovich (6-6), Carter Korab (6-5) and Joe Capponi (6-4).

“I think our taller guys are very athletic,” Johnson said. “That’s kind of an advantage. We have some guys who can move up and down the floor.”

Johnson hopes that opponents will have difficulty in shutting down Jackson’s offense.

“We have an inside presence. We have guys who can slash, guys who can get offensive rebounds and guys who can shoot,” Johnson said. “Hopefully, we’ll have an all-around offensive team.”

In addition to Liddell, three other Timberwolves scored in double figures in the season opener – Searles (14 points), Olesen (11) and Bigovich (10). Senior Kevin Han also finished with 8 points.

Jackson a long and rich history of success at the state tournament. The Timberwolves finished second in 2010 and 2013. The Timberwolves have made six state regional or state tournament appearances since 2010.

At the last two district tournaments, Jackson lost winner-to-state regional games.

“This group definitely will be disappointed if we don’t get state regionals,” Johnson said.

“That’s been our goal,” Olesen added. “That’s what we’ve been working toward. In the summer we try to play the best teams we can. … We just need to make sure we bring that energy every day to practice.”

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