Blazers Women Sign White River All-Leaguer Sam Fiedler


BLAZERS: Fiedler, a 5-foot-8 Post, Was a First-Team All-South Puget Sound League Selection for the Hornets

BUCKLEY — When White River girls basketball has a home game in Buckley, a rural town of 5,000 in east Pierce County, just about everyone in attendance knows each other. So when an unknown out-of-towner planted himself in the stands for the Hornets matchup against Capital on Dec. 21, 2019, people took notice. Even more so being that the gym was emptier than usual due to taking place on a Saturday over Christmas break.

One of those who spotted the man was senior post Sam Fiedler, who took note of him during the first quarter. Once she saw who he was sitting next to, former White River girls basketball player Kayla Howard, she started placing the pieces of the puzzle together and a picture came into focus.

“I was like, ‘Huh, I don’t know that guy,’” Fiedler said. “But I kind of found out through context clues.”

The man was Centralia College women’s basketball head coach Caleb Sells and Fiedler didn’t know it at the time, but he was there to see her play. Not only was there a strong likelihood that a college coach or scout was in attendance, but Fiedler was already nervous about having to face Capital’s bevy of bigs. The Cougars had five players taller than the 5-foot-8 Fiedler.

She didn’t just play through the jitters, she produced her best game of the season, finishing with 18 points and 11 boards in a convincing 63-49 upset win over a Capital team that would go on to qualify for the Class 3A state tournament.

The high of the stunning victory and her dominating performance was soon overcome by anxiety as her coach, Chris Gibson, approached her and said the guy in the stands wanted to talk to her.

“I was so nervous,” Fiedler said. “I’m sure I was shaking the whole conversation, but it was a good conversation and it went really well.”

She didn’t have to do much selling. Sells was more than impressed by what he saw.

“She attacked and finished with her left hand so much that I thought she might be left handed,” Sells said. “Nope.”

Sells offered her a scholarship on the spot. She didn’t say ‘yes’ immediately, only telling him she was interested and would keep in touch. However, she didn’t need much time to mull it over. She already knew she wanted to attend a two-year school and stay fairly close to home. Centralia checked both those boxes, being a 90-minute drive from Buckley.

The two exchanged texts over the next month, Sells even offering encouragement before the Hornets’ big rivalry matchup against league foe Fife on Jan. 10 (White River won that game, too). She verbally committed near the end of January and signed her National Letter of Intent in April.

Fiedler helped White River go 23-5 overall and 13-0 in league play as a senior. The Hornets captured the South Puget Sound League’s East Division title, then later the district championship. They earned a No. 4 seed at the Class 2A state tournament and Fiedler pulled down five boards in a season-ending loss to East Valley (Yakima) at state. She went on to garner a first-team all-SPSL East Division selection.

Fiedler, a two-year starter and four-year varsity letterwoman, was also a volleyball and track and field standout for the Hornets. She qualified for the 2A state track and field meet in the triple jump and helped White River place at state as a junior (eighth) and senior (fifth). She was selected to play in the senior all-state volleyball game her senior year. Basketball has always been her No. 1 sport, however, and the one she’s played the longest.

“Basketball was my first love,” Fiedler said. “I’ve always been more focused and driven in basketball.”

When she was searching for colleges, coach Gibson steered her toward Centralia College. Gibson had sent six of his former players to the Trailblazers in the past 10 years and he knew coach Sells pretty well by this point. Four of the previous six have ended up netting all-league honors for the Blazers. Fiedler had also played with Trailblazer sophomores Chloe Nagurski and Megan Cash in the past, and they both gave glowing reviews of coach Sells and the program.

The Blazers are coming off one of their best seasons in recent memory, going 21-7 overall and 14-0 in the Northwest Athletic Conference West Region. They ended the season on a 14-game win streak and with one of four No. 1 seeds entering the NWAC tournament that was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fiedler should fit right in with the Blazers attacking press defense that prides itself on putting intense pressure on opposing teams’ offenses. It’s the same style of play her undersized Hornets team used to advance to the state tournament.

“She gives us flexibility as we can play her at both forward positions,” Sells said. “Sam can shoot it well enough to keep the defense honest, but she is one of the best I’ve seen in high school at catching the ball at the free throw line, facing up and just destroying whoever is guarding her… we are lucky to have her.”

It will be a bit of a change for Fiedler, who played exclusively in the post for White River. Either way, she’s looking forward to continuing her basketball career in Centralia and meeting her new teammates.

“I’m just excited to meet the team, make bonds, get to work and keep the winning streak alive from last season,” Fiedler said. “I’m super excited for that.”