Eliza Friend smiles when she glances down to her right at Jane Cosmos. Friend, who stands 6-foot-4, towers over her teammate at 5-foot-9, but the two have been on equal footing since they first met as Overlake School middle-schoolers.
Cosmos tilts her head upward and grins back at Friend, who was a year older than her fellow Owl in sixth grade. This is where they and other current varsity players formed basketball and friendship bonds, which have grown exponentially over time and are at a premium this season. At press time, the Owls girls squad stood atop the 1A Emerald City League with an 8-0 record and were 11-3 overall.
These are good times for the Owls and their new head coach John Augustavo.
“This is really our first year coaching them, so it’s taken us a few weeks to kind of get them all on the same page. And now that they’re all on the same page, they’re playing real well,” said Augustavo, who is joined by assistant coach Rick Kelly. “They have to play for each other and make each other better, and as soon as they can grasp that, I think this team can go pretty far.”
Augustavo coached at 4A KingCo Inglemoor High from 2002-2015 and led his girls teams to four state tournaments. Kelly was an assistant with the Viks, and after taking a few years off, the duo wanted to get back in the coaching game.
The hoops terrain now is much different than 4A KingCo, Augustavo noted, adding, “We’ve both said, you make the big time where you go.” Augustavo feels he has all the pieces — eight hard-working players who shine in all aspects of the game — on his side this season. At the San Diego Surf N’ Slam Tournament in late December, the 1A Owls beat 3A Metro’s Eastside Catholic, 42-35, and hung tight with other 3A and 4A squads. Friend averaged 28 points a game during the tournament.
“We’re all fairly young players, we don’t have any seniors on the team, and so we all really have to stand up and all be leaders,” said Cosmos, a sophomore guard who has averaged 16 points and five steals per game. “We have that flow and we just play for each other and have fun.”
Cosmos was especially proud of the Owls’ performance in their 56-47 win over Seattle Academy, a tough team they’ll face again at 5:30 p.m. on Friday at home.
Augustavo said Cosmos has an endless engine that never shuts down. On the team’s play, Cosmos added: “It’s all fast ball. We go out there, we start running. It’s all about getting those looks, going up and down the court, getting those points, getting the steals. It’s all about keeping our head in the game.”
Friend, a junior post, said that developing friendships and trust throughout girls’ history together has led to a successful season. The Owls possess chemistry and they’re in it for each other — no one’s trying to be the star of the team, Friend added.
“Our friendship has grown over time. As we’ve progressed and as we’ve gotten better as a team, it seems that it will become something really special,” said Friend, who has averaged 14 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks per game. “That’s just part of Overlake. We’ve all been here for so long and we love our school so much.”
Cosmos and Friend’s older brothers used to play on the same Overlake team together, and Friend has had two older brothers and a sister play ball for the Owls. She’s the baby of the family, she jokes.
From her siblings, “I learned how to lead, how to be a good teammate, and I also learned a little bit about post play just ‘cause I played with my brothers in our driveway,” Friend said with a laugh.
Now in her own leadership role, Friend wants to make sure everyone is united and staying positive on and off the court. Keeping the team dynamic strong is key along with emphasizing sportsmanship. They treat their opponents with respect, and Friend added, “It’s a fun game, and it should stay a fun game.”
Other team members are juniors Annabelle Wiley (5-8 wing) and Jessica Colleran (5-8 post), sophomore Jamison Foster (5-4 guard) and freshmen Rachel Sapirstein (6-0 wing), Addie Sapirstein (5-9 wing) and Mary Cosmos (5-7 guard).
With everyone on board and getting chances to handle the ball and take shots, the team is set to go far, said Cosmos, adding that effort, attitude and focus with be their three-pronged attack. Coming out strong from the opening tip will light the fire for the Owls.
Cosmos had one last smile on tap when describing the girls’ personalities when they’re not racking up victories on the hardwood.
“To be honest, we’re just crazy, we’re kind of dysfunctional, but it’s fun,” she said. Friend added that it’s a family type thing that keeps them going strong.
* Friday is the annual Coaches vs. Cancer pink night of basketball and fundraising for a cure. The primary charity of the evening is Alex’s Lemonade Stand: https://www.alexslemonade.org. At 7 p.m., the boys will take on Seattle Academy, and at halftime, Overlake fans will take part in a shootout to help raise funds for class of 1999 Owl graduate Matt Fisk’s cancer treatment.