Women’s basketball loses players to Hawaii


By Peter Sowards



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Morganne Comstock’s happiness and passion for the game of basketball have waned since the sudden passing of her best friend six years ago.

She is on a mission to get them back.

Comstock, a redshirt sophomore for the EWU women’s basketball team, will transfer to Hawai’i Pacific University, a Division-II school in the Pacific West Conference. The HPU Sea Warriors play their home games in Honolulu.

The desire to be happy for Comstock started six years ago when, as a freshman at Kentlake High School in Kent, Wash., Comstock helped lead the Falcons to the 2007 Washington 4A state tournament alongside best friend and fellow freshman Carly Stowell. The duo earned co-MVP honors that season.

After the school season ended, Comstock and Stowell — as well as current EWU starting guard Kylie Huerta — switched to a traveling team, the Emerald City Legends, and moved about the country playing tournaments.

It was at one of these tournaments — the Deep South Classic in Raleigh, N.C. — when tragedy struck. According to Hoopgurlz.com, Stowell collapsed at the team hotel near the Raleigh-Durham International Airport and was unable to be resuscitated. “Her heart just stopped,” Comstock said.

“She was my point guard,” Comstock added.

Comstock finished her career at Kentlake High School with records and accolades, named MVP each of her four years and earning All-South Puget Sound League First-Team honors as a junior and senior.

However, after devoting her playing career to Stowell, Comstock did not do a whole lot of playing in her first three years at Eastern. She redshirted her first year, then played just 43 minutes in 12 games combined in her freshman and sophomore seasons. “I just need to get that love back for the sport because I’m not in love with it here anymore,” Comstock said. “I really need to get that back. My best friend was really important to me. I like to play for her.”

Comstock (33) and Pakootas (30) flex their guns while redshirt freshman Kayleigh Ryan executes a solid photobomb.  Photo contributed by Morganne Comstock
Comstock (33) and Pakootas (30) flex their guns while redshirt freshman Kayleigh Ryan executes a solid photobomb.
Photo contributed by Morganne Comstock

Immediately after Stowell’s death, Comstock and her teammates wore Stowell’s number, 21, on their shoulders and sneakers. Comstock had the number tattooed in roman numerals on her back left shoulder along with a butterfly in remembrance. Thanks to some investigative work by her new head coach at HPU, Reid Takatsuka, Comstock will be able to pay tribute once more with a No. 21 jersey.

“The coach at Hawai’i Pacific did his research I guess and Googled me and that’s the first thing that pops up: her best friend passed away,” Comstock said. “So one of the conversations we had on the phone recently, … he said that they had the No. 21 for me, and that just made me happy.

“He’s like, ‘We have it here for you. You can wear this number [and] support your best friend,’ and I was just really happy about that.”

Comstock said her biggest supporter on the team has been junior Chenise Pakootas, who plans to transfer and play her senior year at the Chaminade University of Honolulu, just four miles from HPU. “Chenise [Pakootas] has been a ride-or-die friend,” Comstock said. “She’s helped me through tough situations, and when I need her, she’s there. And she knows that I need her, so she’s going to come with.”

Pakootas and Comstock were roommates as freshmen at EWU, and they shared a common ground, both losing people very close to them in their adolescence. “We had a lot to talk about,” Pakootas said. “She didn’t have support and she needed it.”

After playing at three different high schools, Pakootas is well-prepared for the transition. “It won’t be hard for me,” she said.

When asked why she was transferring, Pakootas offered a similar answer to Comstock: “For my happiness,” Pakootas replied. “I wasn’t happy with being at Eastern. I wanted to find it.”

Eagles head basketball coach Wendy Schuller remained positive despite the loss of two of her players. “They are both terrific young women,” she said. “And I wish them the best in their future endeavours.”

Follow me on Twitter @PeterSowards or at @EasternerSports