Thoughts from the Toyota Center
FROM KENNEWICK — We've settled in on press row at the Toyota Center — which is courtside, a different perspective than usual — and have a few thoughts to share before Washington State and Idaho State take the court. Read on.
Our first thought: it's really cold in here. That's because this facility's primary athletic use is for hockey — the Tri-City Americans play their home games here — so the basketball surface is laid over the ice. That makes for a chilly environment if you're seated on the floor or near it, as we are. … As I mentioned in today's morning post, this building is also the site of the most phenomenal team accomplishment I've witnessed on a basketball court. My dad and I drove here from Longview in 2006 to watch the NWAACC championship tournament. I grew up attending Lower Columbia College games, and the Red Devils were far and away the best team in the conference that season — they'd lost just once — and the overwhelming favorite to win the championship. On the second day of the 16-team tournament, LCC had already won its game, so my dad and I stuck around to watch the next quarterfinal matchup between, coincidentally enough, Community Colleges of Spokane and Chemeketa. The winner would play LCC the next day. And for about 35 minutes of that game, it appeared Chemeketa would win easily. That's because Chemeketa led by 20 points with five minutes to play. Game over. No chance Spokane could come back, unless it did something crazy, like score 34 points in the final five minutes and hit an off-balance jumper at the buzzer to win by two. Yep, that's what happened, and to my delight, I discovered last night that the S-R ran a brief about that game in the next day's newspaper. And that 34-12 run to close the game is no misprint. Along with maybe 50 or 60 others, I can vouch that it really happened. Otherwise, I don't think I'd believe it. Think about that. Thirty-four points in five minutes. That's a 272-point pace! Just imagine how Chemeketa felt. It led by 20 points with five minutes left and scored 12 points the rest of the way — a more-than-adequate 96-point pace — and still lost. I wish I could find a box score somewhere. But memory will have to serve in this instance, as it does every time dad and I recall the Bellevue Community College cheerleader who tried to run out on the court after a player who unintentionally knocked her down as he chased a loose ball. Seriously. Good times in Kennewick. (By the way, LCC beat Spokane the next day and wound up losing in the championship game to Highline, a team it had beaten twice that season. Go figure.) … On to the stuff you actually care about. I'd expect coach Ken Bone to try to play his bench quite a bit this afternoon — especially Kennewick native Bryce Leavitt — and if the Cougars take care of business in the first half, they should be afforded that opportunity. Simply put, Idaho State just isn't very good, the Bengals' lone win coming against Montana Western. This is a game for Brock Motum to get back into his groove, for DaVonte Lacy to build off his big game against Buffalo, for Bone to tinker with his rotation one last time before Pac-12 play begins next week, and for the Cougars' role players and lesser-used reserves to get a little court time. We'll be back afterward with more.