Knights down Wildcats, snap five-game losing streak | Boys basketball

King’s loses its top player to an injury prior to showdown
By David Pan | Jan 11, 2018
Photo by: David R Pan King’s Elyon Zevenbergen (left) and Archbishop Murphy’s Colin Guy battle for a rebound during a Cascade Conference game Friday, Jan. 5.

It was gut check time for King’s.

To say the Knights were reeling coming into their league clash against Archbishop Murphy was not an exaggeration.

King’s had dropped its last five games and had lost their top player – junior Nate Kleppe – to a leg injury earlier in the week.

But all the adversity seemed to energize the Knights, who extended a 6-point half time lead to 14 points by the end of the third quarter and went on to beat the Wildcats 59-42 in a Cascade Conference boys basketball game Friday, Jan. 5, at Archbishop Murphy High School.

Junior forward Luke Bobin scored a game-high 14 points and senior guard Levi Bundrant added 11 points to lead King’s. Freshman Shane McGaughey-Fick finished with 10 points.

“We played with a passion and a lot of joy,” Bobin said. “We kind of executed a lot better. To get out of this five-game losing streak means a lot to us.”

The Knights overcame the absence of Kleppe, who was injured during a 72-57 loss to Cedarcrest on Tuesday, Jan. 2, at King’s High School.

King’s coach Rick Skeen noted that Kleppe was the team’s leading scorer, rebounder and deflections player.

“That adds to the challenge,” he said. “You’ve lost five games. You’re on the road to play your archrival. We just got spanked at home on Tuesday and we lose, statistically, our best player. I’m just proud of how the kids rose up.”

Bobin said that the Knights’ depth enabled them to compensate for the loss of Kleppe.

“We didn’t really talk about it, but we knew we would have a tough time in the back of our heads,” Bobin said.

King led 15-11 after the first quarter and went into halftime with a 32-26 advantage.

The Knights (4-2 in the league, 6-6 overall) then outscored the Wildcats (3-2, 8-5) 14-6 in the third quarter.

Bobin said that the King’s bench, especially Elyon Zevenbergen, provided a spark in the third quarter.

“We didn’t let up. We didn’t let them get back in the game,” he said. “It was all our subs. We played as a team and we did really well.”

Skeen credited Bundrant with playing inspired defense.

“He just played super hard and I think that gets our guys going,” Skeen said. “We rebounded the ball pretty well.”

After struggling to connect on shots during the five-game losing streak, the Knights made the most of their offensive opportunities.

“They’re a good basketball team,” Skeen said. “I thought we shot the ball pretty well. They didn’t shoot as good as they can. You play again tomorrow, maybe they shoot it good and we don’t. Sometimes the game gets pretty simple. It’s about making shots and we struggled a little bit to make shots, but tonight the ball started going in the hole. It makes everything better for sure.”

Much of the focus on defense was containing Archbishop Murphy’s Trey Miller, who scored a team-high 11 points. The Knights had more than one player guard Miller and tried to keep him out of the paint.

King’s succeeded more often than not.

“You can’t guard him one on one. You’ve got to try and surround him and for the most part we did that,” Skeen said.

King’s is tied for third place in the league – second among the 1A schools – after a 65-50 loss to first place South Whidbey (5-1, 11-4) on Tuesday, Jan. 9, at South Whidbey High School.

The Knights’ confidence had taken a serious hit over the holiday break after losses to Lynden, Bainbridge, Chief Sealth, Bishop Blanchet and Cedarcrest.

Skeen described Friday’s game as a good check on the Knights’ mental toughness going up against a quality opponent in a playoff-type atmosphere.

“You’ve got a lot of things stacked up against us,” he said. “Playing without your best guy. They just didn’t make any excuses and they found a way to get the job done. … We want to build on that – confidence-wise – but also remember what we did. We played with great effort, great passion and great togetherness and that’s a winning recipe for us.”

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