WARDEN — Often athletes describe their teammates and coaches as family, their brothers, their sisters. This speaks to the bonds built on the court and in the locker room. For four sisters on the Warden girls basketball team, this goes without saying. And, so far this season, those bonds have paid off on the court.
Warden basketball has been on a tear out of the gate, with the Cougars rolling at 17-0, making quick work of Cascade on Tuesday night, 77-12. While a 65-point margin is eye-opening enough, it provides just a glimpse into the dominance the Cougars have been bringing to the court every night.
A strong sophomore class, including Kiana Rios, Jaryn Madsen, Kaya Enriquez and Rylee McKay has provided a phenomenal base for their trio of newcomers. Senior transfer Brecka Erdmann and freshmen Quinn Erdmann and Jlynn Rios have been a huge asset for the Cougars who have become a well-oiled machine on the court this season.
Juniors Grace Richins and Averie Golladay have been efficient off the bench as well, ensuring the machine never misses a beat. The trust and depth of this squad has been impressive, on both ends of the court.
Amid this success two pairs of sisters, Kiana and Jlynn Rios and Brecka and Quinn Erdmann, have been taking full advantage of their first year together on the varsity court.
Separated by just a year in school, Kiana said she and Jlynn have been playing together since they started around third or fourth grade.
“She’s always been playing up a level, playing with me, so she knows when to step up,” Kiana said. “She’s just really good at that. She plays mature; she’s just one of those players.”
Kiana said there’s just a “comfort” with this team, not just between her and Jlynn.
“It just has a lot to do with trust,” Kiana said. “We all know when we’re getting beat. We know someone’s gonna have our back. We just rely on one another to help us out.”
Bringing in her sister this season, Kiana knew what the team was getting on the defensive end of the floor.
“She’s really good on defense, so I always count on her to show everyone what she can do,” Kiana said. “To me, she’s one of the best defenders in the state. Not just saying that because she’s my sister, I’ve seen her play basketball my whole life.”
As her older sister, Kiana said she believes Jlynn looks to her as a role model.
“Whatever I see, she feeds off of it and gets her really hyped up,” she said. “We just play really well together.”
Bringing in Brecka and Quinn Erdmann this season on top of what they returned, Rios said she feels like creates a great chance to improve on last year’s success.
Freshman Jlynn Rios agreed with her sister, Kiana, that she looks up to her, calling her older sister “a big leader.”
“I look up to her a lot, she’s a good point guard, a post,” Jlynn Rios said. “She really puts up a lot of shots that help us get a lead.”
When she’s in foul trouble, Jlynn said it’s her sister who comes in and reminds to keep her hands up, telling her “I don’t want you fouling out.”
Coming in as a freshman brought some nerves, Jylnn said. Being surrounded with so many girls she’s played with before took those nerves away quickly.
“Playing with these girls and my sister, I’m used to it, playing Trinity ball and stuff,” she said. “So, I wasn’t nervous. It’s been pretty good.”
Being a freshman, Jlynn said she’s still not sure what to make of the success the Cougars are having right now, but said she thinks they have the skill to make a run.
The skill has been evident, as the Cougars have won every game by at least 14 points this season. Last week against Cascade, the Cougars poured in 34 points in the first quarter alone. Warden’s opponents have scored more than 34 points just five times all season. The Cougars held the Kodiaks to two points, as a team, in the second half.
This sort of stat has become routine for the Cougars who, despite lacking a ton of experience, have only looked stronger coming off a 20-3 season in 2018-19.
Freshman Quinn Erdmann joins this group, dealing with the nerves of being an underclassmen as well as joining a new team at Warden. She said the feeling is sort of “different” right now simply because this is all still new to her.
“It’s fun because I’ve played with these girls before, and it’s just fun to play with them again, just reconnect with all of them,” Quinn said. Quinn said her sister Brecka is the biggest cheerleader, for her and all the girls on the team.
“She’s always up to cheer on anyone, the first to pick you up, the first to take a charge or do anything that is sacrificing herself for the team,” Quinn said. “So it’s fun having her out there.”
Quinn isn’t alone in looking up to the lone senior on the Cougars, and said her sister’s always helping her out, picking her back up from mistakes.
Having a chance to make a run at something special, with her sister on the team, is a rare opportunity, Quinn said.
“I think it’s something that’s almost a once in a lifetime chance, really exciting to do,” she added.
Being able to walk away with a title this season would be amazing, Quinn said, calling this experience unlike any she’d ever had.
Coming in as a transfer in high school can be difficult. Coming in as a senior leader as well only ups the ante. Brecka Erdmann said she has tried her best to meet that challenge, though, since she’s arrived in Warden for her final high school season this year.
“Warden’s been great to me; the girls have been really accepting to me, too,” Brecka said. “Transferring your senior year usually isn’t supposed to be an easy thing, but I did know a lot of the girls before the season, and I was able to come in with a positive attitude and gain that leadership role.”
With most of the team sophomores and younger, Brecka said she feels some girls looked up to her simply because of her experience, but she said she wanted to establish her leadership through her work.
“I knew all the little things I had to do,” Brecka said. “You just have to be supportive constantly and positive with your girls, and you do all the little things in practice and that’s how you become a leader, not because of seniority.”
Watching her sister succeed in her freshman season, Brecka said she’s been “so proud” of Quinn and grateful for the chance to play alongside her for a season.
“Getting to see her succeed her freshman year just makes me so happy that she doesn’t have to go through the pressures of a big school,” Brecka said. “She is just automatically happy, and she gets to be on a team that is supportive and positive and accepts her role and how hard she works.”
While Jlynn and Quinn’s roles have been huge this season, Brecka said it’s nice for them that typically the freshmen don’t bear a lot of responsibility.
“They’re not gonna blame the freshmen, and I don’t want that to be put on our freshmen because their only role they should have is to come in and play hard and work hard,” Brecka said. “And they’ve been doing that all season.”
Brecka said she has a lot of confidence in the way the Cougars are playing right now in the season, and said with the “gel” they have, she doesn’t see anything pulling them apart.
“I feel so grateful to be a part of this team, and winning a state title with this team would just be the best thing ever, especially having my sister there with me,” Brecka said.