March 2, 1995 in Washington Voices

Pirates Solve Puzzle Leading To Hoops Treasure

By The Spokesman-Review
 

This year’s Rogers High School boys basketball team is a jigsaw puzzle made up of pieces from various places.

Six players have shared starting assignments this year.

Two are third-year starters.

Another comes from a winless junior varsity.

Their well-traveled coach came this summer from Western Washington, bringing along his son.

Another player missed nearly half this season with family responsibilities, while still another is at his third high school.

Once the puzzle was assembled, however, it revealed Rogers’s first winning team in 17 years. The Pirates are the No. 3 seed into this week’s Lamb Weston East state qualifying tournament.

“It was interesting,” first-year coach Rick Mergenthaler said of his Pirate experience. “How could I be prepared for this situation?

“Wallace (Williams, the Rogers principal) told me if I knew, I wouldn’t have taken the job.”

Not only did he take the job, Mergenthaler rose to the challenge.

Following a 1-6 league start, Rogers won six of its last nine Greater Spokane League games.

Although the team was twice beaten badly by co-last-place finishing University, it defeated GSL runner-up Lewis and Clark, thirdplace Ferris twice, and fifth-place Central Valley three times.

Included were district tournament victories over Ferris and CV that qualified the Pirates for regional play.

“It was just a matter of time for them to gel defensively,” said Mergenthaler.

“We have a slogan: ‘If you score, you may win. If you play defense, you never lose.’

“They didn’t start to play hard until we started winning.”

Mergenthaler admitted his team was a melting pot.

Ryan Metcalfe and Richie Fischer are third-year players.

Because of his own job changes, Mergenthaler’s son, Rick, was playing for his third high school.

“Alfred Muse really had wandered nomadically,” Mergenthaler said of the point guard who played for Ferris and Lewis and Clark before arriving at Rogers.

Modesto Spencer missed the first eight games of the season.

“He was having financial difficulties providing for his family,” said Mergenthaler.

Spencer became the father of a baby girl last Sunday.

Nathan Smith, the junior Pirate post, came up from junior varsity to join three other varsity returnees, Jeff Olsen, Adrian Olson and Derrick Simpson.

“The story just goes on and on,” said Mergenthaler.

After placing sixth in league this year, last week’s third-place district finish was a dream realized for the 11-10 Pirates.

“At that point (when Rogers was 1-6) people thought we were out of it,” said Mergenthaler. “I said it was a nine-game tournament and forgiving schedule. I kept emphasizing you have to win here and win there.

“It’s a Cinderella thing you hope comes true,” Mergenthaler said. “Fortunately it did.”

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