KENNEWICK -- Southridge coach Scott Stiles acknowledges there was a little bit of panic during a four-game losing streak last month.
But Stiles knew his team had two things going in its favor despite the skid. First, all the losses were nonleague and wouldn't affect the Suns' playoff positioning.
Second, he understood all four corresponded with the loss of senior point guard Heather Worley to a sprained left ankle.
A 46-37 win over Pasco to open CBBN Columbia play just before Christmas break helped quell the panic. And Worley's return against Eastmont after the break has helped the Suns improve to 3-0 in league play with back-to-back wins over Sunnyside and Wenatchee over the weekend.
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"I didn't want Heather to feel the pressure to rush back," Stiles said. "When we lost her, it hurt us, but it did give us the opportunity to play different girls in different positions, and to develop girls who can come off the bench. When she came back, both Emma (Sanders) and Ingrid (Stein) were able to contribute."
Worley, a first-team all-leaguer a year ago, leads the team with 15.0 points per game, but Stiles said her biggest contribution can't be seen on the stat sheet.
"Well, number one, she's a leader," he said. "For some of our younger players, to see how hard she works, how serious she is, everyone comes out with that same purpose."
The Suns return to action Friday night at Moses Lake, which is tied with Wenatchee for second in the division at 2-1 and led by juniors Jordan Loera (18.5 ppg) and Kayla Bernsen (11.9).
-- River View is off to its first 4-0 start to league play in the program's history.
What a time, then, for real life to intrude upon the Panthers' season.
Coach Bruce Moore left at 6 a.m. Wednesday for San Francisco to take part in his company's three-year strategic planning session -- just as his team was doing some strategic planning of its own, preparing to play perennial SCAC East powers Connell and Columbia (Burbank) on back-to-back nights this weekend.
"The timing is terrible," Moore said. "But I'm confident in this team. I believe I can walk away for two days, come back and they'll be ready to go for two tough games.
"I have a young team, and I've been trying to get them to grow up, take more ownership in this team. Now, we have a real test to see how much they step up and take on leadership duties."
The Panthers' hot start can be attributed to their balance. They have three players among the league's top six scorers -- sophomore Kim Gier (15.7 ppg) and juniors Hattie Johnson (12.7) and Mallory Smith (11.2).
"I'm anxious to see if we've progressed along as much as I think we have," Moore said. "I think we can compete with Connell (on Friday). If we play a good game, we should give them a good run."
-- Othello looked as if it wouldn't take much of a tumble after qualifying for state for the second straight year last spring.
The Huskies graduated three starters, but only Allison Walker scored significant points, and they had two double-figure scorers returning in Kylee Mollotte and Christine Kirkwood.
But Tuesday's 70-48 loss at Ellensburg was Othello's fifth straight defeat, dropping it to 1-6 in CWAC play.
"We just haven't jelled as a team," said coach Laurie Stickel. "Last year, we had kids who accepted their roles. Right now, we have players more interested in me instead of we, and when you're losing, it doesn't help things."