The Tumwater High School girls’ basketball team will take a lengthy winning streak and a No. 1 ranking into the postseason as the Thunderbirds look to capture the program’s first ever state championship.
Undefeated champions of the 2A Evergreen Conference, Tumwater, behind a quartet of four-year starters in Aubrey Amendala, Natalie Sumrok, Isabella Lund and Cassie Kaufman, earned the title of “team to beat” in the Class 2A state tournament following a regular season where they simply dominated the competition.
The T-Birds finished the regular season with a record of 18-1 and went a spotless 11-0 in EvCo play. After dropping its only game to 4A Mount Si in a holiday tournament back in late December, the team won its next 10 games with only 4A Camas getting within 20 points. The rest of the opposition was overwhelmed as Tumwater won its other 9 games by an average of 52 points.
The T-Birds have been machine-like this season in their dismantling of whoever lines up against them, and if they are a machine, Amendala is the engine.
A lot was asked out of Amendala the moment she joined the team as a freshman. Four years later and you can confidently say the dynamic playmaking point guard has far exceeded even the high expectations that were placed on her as she will graduate as one of the school’s all-time great players.
A former EvCo MVP who could potentially become a two-time recipient of the honor at season’s end, Amendala, who earlier this season surpassed 1,000 career points, arrived at Tumwater, along with her senior cohorts, a year after the T-Birds posted a 4-17 record.
They immediately turned things around that first season winning 19 games under new head coach Robin Johnson, Amendala’s mom who has been coaching the group since they were in fourth grade.
“It’s been amazing to grow with this group. Since our freshmen to senior year, you can really see how much we’ve grown together,” Amendala said about her teammates. “They’re my favorite group of people.”
After coming up just shy of advancing to the state tournament for the first time since 2011 during her freshman season, Amendala guided the T-Birds to the 2A tourney in 2020 as a sophomore, helping the team finish third, marking the highest placing for the program since Tumwater was the 2007 runner-up.
She will now attempt to close out her high school career with something that has never been done: guide the girls’ basketball team to a state championship.
“It’s a journey and experience I feel very grateful for,” said Johnson about being able to coach her daughter. “We’ve gotten to share our passion and love for basketball together. Countless hours in a gym together, watching game film together, traveling together, and growing as a coach and a player together. When things go well, we get to celebrate together and when things don’t, we both understand how much it hurts. At times it’s a challenge balancing being both mom and coach. But I love coaching her and her teammates regardless of the challenge. I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”
Amendala, who has started every game since her freshman year, has once again been the model of consistency this year, averaging 16 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and 3 steals a game. Her stats are even more impressive when you consider the fact she could be found on the bench in most fourth quarters as during most of their games the T-Birds were up by 30 or more points in the final frame.
Regardless of how the season ends, Amendala’s playing career is far from over as she has already signed on to play in college.
Despite both her parents being former athletes at Saint Martin’s University with mom playing basketball and her dad being a standout on Saints’ baseball team, Amendala will play next year at Dixie State University, a Division I school in St. George, Utah that competes in the Western Athletic Conference.
“It’s my dream school,” Amendala said. “I just fell in love with Utah when I was there. It’s a small Division I NCAA program and that is what I wanted. I just love everything about it.”
So, what type of player are the Trailblazers getting in Amendala?
“I think Dixie State is getting a smart point guard that is a leader,” Johnson said. “She sees the floor well and can score from all three levels. Aubrey is also a quick defender who works extremely hard and does all the little things. I think Aubrey’s most impressive quality is her high basketball IQ. She is a very smart player, which allows her to anticipate and analyze things quickly. She directs the tempo and pace of the game both on offense and defense. She has a true point guard mentality and does what is needed to win the game.”
Amendala and her Tumwater teammates will begin their quest towards a state title when they open district tournament play at home on Friday, February 11. Regionals will be help February 25-26 with higher seeds hosting games and the 2A state tournament will be March 2-5 at the Yakima SunDome.