Engelstone rebounds from injury, scoring big for Bear Creek Grizzlies

Bear Creek senior Kristina Engelstone drives to the basket during the Grizzlies’ 59-38 win over Darrington on Dec. 20.  - Courtesy of Sini Fernandez
Bear Creek senior Kristina Engelstone drives to the basket during the Grizzlies’ 59-38 win over Darrington on Dec. 20.
— image credit: Courtesy of Sini Fernandez

Kristina Engelstone had never experienced such a brutal injury.

During a basketball game last season, The Bear Creek School player landed the wrong way on her left foot and tore all the ligaments in her ankle. Her season was over.

“It was really hard because I wanted to play so badly and I wanted to finish out my junior year. But obviously in the back of my mind, you know that there’s always a plan and you know that everything will always work out,” Engelstone, now a senior, said before practice on Monday afternoon.

The Sea-Tac 2B Conference most valuable player missed the final five regular-season games last year and also sat out the Grizzlies’ district contests. The 5-foot-10 point guard had surgery last April and made her way back onto the basketball court in June to get her ankle and game back in shape.

Engelstone says she’s playing at 100 percent strength this season and last month she earned the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s 2B Female Athlete of the Week honors.

She’s averaging almost 13 points, eight rebounds and six assists a game for the Grizzlies, who were 3-0 in league and 9-0 overall at the Reporter’s deadline.

As the four-year varsity player reflects on her injury, she believes it helped her and the team in a way.

“Our team really grew from that. I think that we all came together at the end of the year last year and we were able to still push through and still try and fight. Looking back, I definitely am a stronger person — mentally and physically — because of that,” she said.

Greg Cheever has coached the Grizzly girls for the last four years and guided his team to the state tournament during Engelstone’s sophomore year.

“As far as basketball, she’s the most passionate, dedicated basketball player I’ve coached in my 15 years of coaching high school ball locally,” Cheever said. “I’ve had a few boys that I’ve coached that have gone on to the college level, and they had nowhere near the work ethic that she does.”

Cheever added that Engelstone has attended Bear Creek for 13 years — since she was a kindergartner — and therefore, she’s earned “lifer” status around campus. The coach said she’s a good friend and an academic standout who currently sports a 3.7 grade-point average.

Engelstone’s time at Bear Creek has been well spent, and she feels students are blessed with an influential teaching staff.

“They taught me to prioritize and to really push my work ethic, so it can carry onto the basketball court,” she said, adding that school is her top priority and then sports come into play. “I can work hard with basketball but also keep my studies in check, too. (I’m) able to transfer passion and excitement and teamwork into the classroom.”

Engelstone is excited about Bear Creek’s play on the court this season and feels she and her fellow seniors — Hannah Beighle, Catherine Fernandez, Megan McCrae and Hailey Morgan — can finish their high school careers with a bang. They’d like to make it back to state, but Engelstone stresses that they’re focusing on taking one step at a time.

“We’re getting better with each practice and giving our best effort. We enjoy each other’s presence and it’s not hard to play with any of these girls,” said Engelstone, who noted that during her player-of-the-week games the offense outran its opponents and the defense was stellar.

Engelstone shares captain duties with Fernandez and she enjoys leading the team, helping the players become an “adhesive” unit. And everyone’s open-minded when it comes to improving the team’s performance.

“We have a good accountability system. If something’s going wrong, it’s OK to tell the other person and tell the whole team. We’re tough-skinned and we all trust each other,” she said.

Off the court, Engelstone plays the piano, sings in the school choir, practices yoga and is a rock climber.

She tries to sit down at the piano each day, whether it’s just playing a bit or writing her own songs for fun. Five generations of Engelstones have tickled the ivories of the upright piano that sits in her home.

“It’s definitely calming and it’s nice to have another thing to put my energy into other than basketball,” said Engelstone, who noted that her favorite composers are Eric Whitacre and Ola Gjeilo.

“I like doing lots of things. I try to stay well rounded,” she continued. “It’s crazy, crazy — lots going on.”

• Last month, the Bear Creek boys placed third in the 43rd Annual Bellevue College Holiday Tournament. The Grizzlies, who were the only 2B school in a field of 3A and 4A schools, defeated Meadowdale, 70-46, lost to Inglemoor, 67-43, and then rallied to defeat Woodinville, 50-45.

Senior Luke Blankenbeckler scored 16 points in each game, and seniors Collin Feight and Blake Denniston had 27 rebounds each in the three-game tournament.



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