TACOMA – Time and again, Ferris coach Don Van Lierop repeated this mantra: “Different players at different times.”
It might be the guards in one game, the posts in another or everyone contributing during different parts of the same ball game.
Saturday night in the State 4A championship boys game in the Tacoma Dome, that wealth of riches produced an unprecedented outcome with a thorough 68-44 dismantling of Federal Way.
With their victory, the Saxons became the first team in 4A state history to go undefeated in back-to-back championship seasons.
Both years, Ferris finished 29-0. The team’s 58-game winning streak is nearly 20 more than any other large school (4A or 3A classification) team.
“It’s really a credit to these guys,” Van Lierop said. “It may be a cliche a bit, but they took it one game at a time, 58 times, and that’s the truth.”
The four-day tournament only reinforced the different-guys-at-different-times theme. The talent was so evenly spread that four Saxons made the 10 player All-Tournament team.
Jared Karstetter was voted MVP and joined by DeAngelo Casto on the first team, but arguably any of three other Saxons could have won the honor. Shawn Stockton and Jeff Minnerly were second-team choices. It would be tough to exclude fellow starter Erick Cheadle, who hit all five of his shots, all 3-pointers, in the title win.
Cheadle even knocked down a half-court basket to conclude the first half, adding insult to injury during a dominant first 16 minutes that effectively settled the outcome.
Ferris players the night before figured this would be an up-and-down game, which, they said, suits them fine.
Facing a tough Saxons match-up zone, however, the Eagles played things deliberately and it played into the champions’ hands.
“It probably helped us slow down and take care of the ball,” said Cheadle, a comment echoed by others.
The result was that while Federal Way took time off the clock, the Eagles couldn’t score. The torrid shooting of the relaxed Saxons, however, helped them zip to a 17-4 lead.
“We wanted to take care of the ball against their matchup zone,” Eagles coach Jerome Collins said. “But we’re a young team and didn’t recognize the seams.”
Cheadle had two 3-pointers, Minnerly another and Karestter scored twice early.
The lead increased incrementally, to 16 points, 19, 22, as the defense denied Federal Way looks, particularly inside for Aaron Broussard, who was averaging 23 points and 11 rebounds in the tournament.
Cheadle’s buzzer-beating bomb made it 37-14 at halftime.
Federal Way upped the tempo to start the second half before Cheadle’s fourth 3-pointer stopped the slight comeback.
Minnerly scored twice during another seven point run, which made it a 27-point lead.
Casto, the enforcer, took care of the rest.
“They are a tremendous team,” Collins said. “They hurt you in so many ways and are smart with the basketball. They deserve to be champions.”
Casto finished the game with a team-high 18 points and blocked eight shots, giving him a phenomenal 25 for the four days. He also was the tournament’s second-leading rebounder.
“With a shot-blocker like that,” point guard Stockton said, “we make things uncomfortable for offenses outside and funnel people into him.”
Cheadle finished with 17 points, Karstetter scored 15, giving him 68 in four games, and Minnerly had 12. All four averaged double figures for the week and Stockton finished a point short.
All in all, it was a remarkable four-day performance by a team that played up-tempo and survived one rugged defensive effort against them. When the tempo was slowed down, the Saxons had it play right into their hands.
Van Lierop said one of the referees told him it was the best team he’d seen in 30 years of officiating. They became one for the ages and did so with flair in their dominating finale.
“They are just grounded, great players and humble,” Van Lierop said of those players who were part of the two-year dream. “They work hard and don’t overlook anybody.”
“I really don’t know if we know what we’ve done yet,” Minnerly said. “When we do, we’ll realize it’s pretty special.”