On a history making evening, Sunnyside Christian boys basketball coach Dean Wagenaar took time to honor the efforts of a worthy foe.
His Knights had just defeated Neah Bay 55-50 Saturday night in the Spokane Arena and cut down the nets following the school’s second straight state championship and fourth in five years at the Class 1B level.
Wagenaar passed three other coaches to become the first in state history to win six boys titles.
But he had a stop to make before celebrating in the locker room with his team.
“Drexler (Doherty). He’s a legend,” said Wagenaar. “That guy went off. We just gave him a piece of the net. This kid deserves to be a part of this.”
Doherty had scored the first 12 Neah Bay points and had 16 of its 18 first-quarter points giving them the lead in the championship game.
He would finish with 31 (and 72 for the tournament), showing unlimited range and clutch effort, just as he had the first two nights in propelling the Red Devils to their first title appearance.
But ultimately the Knights asserted their size, particularly 6-foot-6 Steven Broersma around the boards, to overcome a worthy foe.
“Neah Bay was tough as nails, they played their tails off,” said Wagenaar. “It was an outstanding effort of hustle, gritty blue collar basketball – pounding the glass, chasing every loose ball and then of course you throw in Drexler’s effort. It was an incredible first half.”
He totaled 19 points in the half and Neah Bay led 25-24 before Broersma took command.
“We all have a green light, if we’re open we shoot,” Doherty said. “I’m just being a team leader and helping out trying to lead my team to victory.”
Broersma hauled down five rebounds and scored half of his 10 points to end the first half putting the Knights up six points.
The Red Devils would tie early in the fourth quarter, but Broersma always seemed to be the answer. He scored 11 fourth quarter points as things got dicey and his size neutralized Neah Bay rebounding. It was his third state title in four varsity seasons at Sunnyside Christian, his first coming as a freshman.
“We knew we were going to have a fight,” he said. “We were looking to pound it down low and looking to slow it down a bit.”
He would end his career with a 24-point, 10 rebound night.
Part of the Sunnyside Christian strategy was necessary because senior scoring leader Trevor Wagenaar sprained his ankle the night before and couldn’t get lift on his shot. “There was an expectation this year,” said Broersma. “But winning this was definitely special when it’s a close game like tonight and you have to work so hard.”
There were no regrets from Neah Bay after reaching its first final. Its previous best finish was fourth place.
“Finishing second this year is quite an accomplishment,” Doherty said. “I look at as more of an accomplishment than a disappointment.”