Knights to rely on defense in state title defense | Boys basketball

After regional win over Northwest, King’s sets sights on third straight 1A boys hoops crown
By David Pan | Mar 03, 2017
Photo by: David Pan King’s Chewy Zevenbergen attempts a putback shot against Northwest’s Isaiah Jeannot.

Defense and a balanced scoring attack lifted King’s past Northwest School.

The Knights clamped down early on their opponent, outscoring Northwest 13-5 in the first quarter and eventually holding on for a 50-46 victory in a 1A state regional boys basketball game Saturday, Feb. 25, at Mountlake Terrace High School.

“It was a great win for our kids and a great win for our program,” King’s coach Rick Skeen said. “Northwest is a very good basketball team. It was two good teams battling Saturday. We were thrilled to come out on top.”

The victory means that King’s, the two-time defending state champion, has a first-round bye and will face the winner of La Salle/La Center at 3:45 p.m. Thursday, March 2, in the Yakima Valley SunDome.

“We’re feeling good,” senior Luke Wicks said. “We like the position we’re in.”

The Knights’ strong defensive performance was critical to the victory over Northwest. The 50 points scored by King’s was its lowest output since a 64-38 nonconference loss to 4A Kentwood in mid-January and was the team’s third lowest offensive performance this season.

Wicks said the combination of Northwest’s defense and an off-night shooting contributed to the team’s offensive struggles.

“We weren’t hitting our open shots and they didn’t’ give us too many open shots,” Wicks said.

“Thirteen points is not a great offensive showing,” Skeen said of his team’s first quarter point total. “We held a good team to 5 points. We felt really good about how we defended.”

King’s lead fluctuated between 5 and 10 points the rest of the game.

“It was never comfortable,” Skeen said. “We didn’t breath until that buzzer. To be in the final eight is a great accomplishment.”

Seniors Dawson Porcello and Chewy Zevenbergen each scored 14 points. Wicks added 11 points.

“We felt like we had a little advantage inside,” Skeen said. “We made more of an emphasis getting Luke and Chewy involved. They did a nice job of finishing.”

Porcello has stepped up his offensive game following the season-ending foot injury to senior Corey Kispert.

“Dawson hits big shots at big times,” Skeen said.

But in the end, defense is driving the Knights’ success. The Knights like to switch between zone and man-to-man to keep their opponents off-balance.

“One of the things the kids do pretty well is lock in on individuals on other teams,” Skeen said.

“We can go play anyone with any defense,” Wicks said. “I think we always try to play the defense that we think is going to do the best against certain offenses.”

Shooting is difficult in the Yakima SunDome, Wicks added. “If we lock down on defense and stop the No. 1 players … I think we’ll make it pretty far.”

Unlike past seasons, King’s played and won in three-loser out games in the District and Bi-District tournaments.

“It woke a lot of the seniors up,” Wicks said. “We haven’t had a loser-out outside of the Dome (state tournament). But I think it’s good for us this season. We know the pressure and how to play with that.”

The Knights also have learned how to play without the Gonzaga-bound Kispert, the heart and soul of the team the last two years, who was sidelined with a foot injury since mid-January.

Kispert’s teammates viewed his absence as a challenge.

“We always play a little bit of the summer without him,” Wicks said. “It’s not like we didn’t how to play without him. We just had to retrain ourselves and learn our new strengths and weaknesses without him.”

The pressure of trying to win a third straight title also seems to have gone away with the loss of Kispert.

“No one thinks we can,” Wicks said. “That just makes it all the more fun if we do get the opportunity.”

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