Coach calls her a bridge, bringing together seniors and freshmen
Anna Mooney has been described by her coach as The Bridge, bringing together the old guard and the new wave of talent for the Camas girls basketball team.
We know of the three super seniors on the squad. We’ve heard of the phenomenal freshmen on the team.
Mooney is the sophomore starter, just doing her thing to incredible reviews from the coaching staff.
“If we put together the package of every single practice, every single game, and if we added everything up and said, ‘Who is the one who has been the most consistent?’ and “Who has made the most plays?’ and just tallied them up, it’s definitely Anna,” Camas coach Scott Thompson said.
“She kind of goes a little under the radar,” Thompson said. “In our program, we have embraced ‘Sometimes you. Sometimes me. Always us.’”
That’s Mooney. That’s all of the Papermakers.
Camas is 13-1 and the top seed heading into the Class 4A/3A Greater St. Helens League culminating event tournament. The Papermakers will play in the quarterfinals Wednesday, the first of what they hope will be three wins this week.
Mooney is just thrilled to be part of this program, trying to help the seniors go out in style while setting up a potential dominating future.
“Some of the freshmen are my best friends. I’ve played with them since I was 8 years old,” Mooney said. “And these seniors, I’ve been playing with them the last couple of years. For me, it’s about stepping up and being a leader. It’s hard to do because I’m only a sophomore. But a lot of this team is really young. It’s been a lot of fun to see the two groups mix.”
While she might not get the spotlight, her athletic abilities are obvious. Mooney is a varsity soccer player, playing for one of the best programs in the state, and a varsity basketball player.
“I plan on playing all four years of high school soccer and high school basketball. It’s really good for your body to be doing multiple sports. A lot of people do one sport all day every day, and it just causes a lot of burnout. I try to balance them. I think I’m managing them well, and it’s keeping my body healthy.”
Soccer season bumps right into basketball season. As a freshman, Mooney did not know what to expect for basketball. She made varsity and began the year as a reserve.
“I knew I had to work. It’s everyone’s goal to be starting,” she said. “As the season went on, I just worked really hard. I earned my way to the starting position. I was honored to have made it.”
Thompson made the move just as Camas was about to start its postseason run. The Papermakers eventually made it to the Tacoma Dome as one of the final 12 teams in the state.
“I put in the work, and I trust my coaches that they would know what was best for me,” Mooney said. “It was awesome. Starting in the dome is something I’ll never forget.”
Fast forward a year, here comes that wave of freshmen. Five are on varsity. And all five contribute. While lineups and in-game rotations change depending on availability and matchups, Thompson opted to begin the season with five returning varsity players in the starting lineup.
“I like that he trusts us,” Mooney said. “They’re freshmen, and they’re very talented, but high school basketball, as I learned, is so different. It’s such a different environment. It’s a different feel. Him starting us was a good move because it eased the freshmen in, slowly but surely.”
Today, the Papermakers remain deep and talented, but after 14 games, they have a structure they all understand. And they are almost flawless. Almost.
Last week, Union ended Camas’ undefeated season with a 53-42 victory.
“We’re trying to make a positive out of it,” Mooney said. “It’s going to be something we can learn from and definitely something to make us more hungry to play them again. It’s kind of a reality check for us, you know?”
Camas had won its previous 12 games by an average margin of victory of 24.9 points. Earlier in the season, the Papermakers beat Union by 20 points and three points. In the third game, it was Union’s time. The Titans, by the way, earned a trophy at state last year.
If the two teams face each other again, it will be in the championship game of the culminating event. Union is the No. 2 seed.
“We’re already so hungry to play them again,” Mooney said.
With no state tournament, Camas’ goal this abbreviated season is to just finish at the top of whatever is proposed. Mooney said everyone on the team is working to give the seniors — Faith Bergstrom, Jalena Carlisle, and Katelynn Forner — a victory in their final game.
“I can’t even imagine what they are going through, on how hard this year has been,” Mooney said. “And just the fact that they are so grateful that we even got a season. They have been so positive about it. It’s all been negative for a year because of COVID, and they’re all positive. ‘At least we got a season.’ We all want to do it for them.
“They’re our three leaders. We look up to them. Winning this is definitely going to be for the seniors. Because we love them, they’re great leaders, and we’re going to miss them.”
Come August, it will be time for Mooney to be preparing for the fall soccer season. And soon enough, her junior year of basketball.
Oh, the possibilities. Camas basketball has never even placed at state. Any trophy would be an accomplishment, but the Papermakers are not thinking about just placing.
“I want to get that ring. We want to win state,” Mooney said. “I see so much potential in the year below me and the years below me. I’m just so excited for the last two years. I would love to bring my team to the dome and get a ring or two.”