King’s finishes third at state hoops tournament | Boys basketballSeniors take charge, lead Knights past Lynden Christian
With its best player cheering on his teammates in street clothes on the bench, King’s exceeded just about everyone’s expectations at the 1A state boys basketball tournament.
The Knights rebounded after a tough loss to Freeman in the semifinals to defeat arch rival Lynden Christian 55-43 to take home a third-place trophy Saturday, March 4, at Yakima Valley SunDome.
Going into the postseason, many observers questioned how King’s would fare without three-time Cascade Conference MVP and Gonzaga-bound Corey Kispert, who was sidelined with a broken bone in his right foot in January. The Knights responded to the adversity well, claiming the Cascade Conference title and qualifying for the state tournament by winning three loser-out District and Bi-District contests.
While King’s was hoping for an opportunity to win its third straight championship, coach Rick Skeen said that the Knights should be proud to finish third.
“All things considered with the adversity we faced, I think our guys should feel good about what they accomplished,” he said. “They proved some people wrong. There were doubts about them when Corey went down.”
Senior Luke Wicks scored a game-high 19 points to help lead the Knights past Lynden Christian, who defeated King’s earlier in the District tournament. Senior Dawson Porcello added 14 points and senior Josh Frohardt had 11 points. All 12 of King’s players were on the floor in the first half that saw the Knights head into halftime trailing 22-19.
King’s defense shut down the Lyncs in the third quarter, holding them to 7 points, while the offense started to get on track with 12 points. An all-senior lineup seized control in the fourth quarter with the Knights outscoring Lynden Christian 24-14.
“To see those senior guys pull away was kind of a storybook ending,” Skeen said. “Everybody stepped up. I’m really proud of the kids.”
King’s defeated La Center 51-48 in a quarterfinal game Thursday, March 2, to advance to the semifinal matchup against Freeman. Porcello scored 12 points and Frohardt added 11 points.
The Knights struggled on offense the entire game against Freeman, but they trailed by only 4 points with 4 minutes left in the fourth quarter. The Scotties, who lost to Zillah in the championship game, went on to defeat King’s 43-34 in the semifinal match-up Friday, March 3.
“Our defense kept us in all three games,” Skeen said.
The Knights made only 1 of 17 3-pointers and connected on only 11 of 24 free throws, including 4 of 15 in the fourth quarter.
“At the end of the day, the ball has got to go in the basket,” Skeen said. “We couldn’t get it to go in the hole like we usually do. It happens. The background (at the Yakima Valley SunDome) is tough. We had a chance. We couldn’t put the ball in the hole.”
Porcello scored 11 points and was the only Knight player in double figures.
Skeen wondered how the players would respond to the loss. Saturday’s consolation game was the first time in five years King’s was not playing in the title game.
“That was their goal,” Skeen said. “That’s hard. It was devastating.”
Skeen and his staff emphasized to the players that life was about facing adversity and asked the players, “How do you respond?”
The Knights answered with a strong first half performance against Lynden Christian.
“We tried to make it a learning opportunity,” Skeen said. “How do you bounce back? We talked about setback and comeback. Friday night was a setback. It was not what any of us wanted. It happens. You don’t win them all. I liked how the kids came back Saturday. … It was fun for everyone to contribute to the game.”
The game marked the end of Kispert’s high school basketball career and it was difficult for Skeen to see the school’s best player on the bench. Despite missing more than half of King’s season, Kispert was a unanimous selection as the league MVP for a third straight year.
“He’s such a special kid with a tremendous work ethic,” Skeen said. “He’s such a great teammate. He left his mark on the program. Our program will feel it for years to come.”
Skeen appreciated the way Kispert and his teammates handled the adversity with character and grit
“Ultimately, what kids learn about winning is fun,” he added. “But we want kids to be better prepared for life as adults. This season taught us more than we hoped it would.”