During a period in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Valley Christian School was an annual State B basketball tourney staple, finishing as high as second place.
Since 2003, the pickings have been slim.
But fourth-year coach Chad Kimberley has righted the ship since the move to 1B. Nearly a decade later, the tall Panthers are back as participants kicking off today’s tournament against defending champion Sunnyside Christian at 9 a.m.
“I call them the ‘Airport Team,’ ” rival Almira/Coulee-Hartline coach Scott Isaak said. “They would look good walking through an airport.”
Kimberley allows that Isaak isn’t necessarily stretching the truth.
“We do have some nice size,” he said. “We’re kind of one-dimensional and pound it inside more than we should at times.”
Why not, with a front line that includes 6-foot-7 sophomore post Bo Piersol, 6-4 senior Craver Small and 6-4 sophomore Nick Cox?
But Valley Christian also has two great point guards in seniors Noah McConahy and Kolby Blew.
“They are OK being facilitators, breaking defenses down a bit and opening up space for the bigs,” Kimberley said. “At 1B that’s a combination you usually don’t get. We’re also a nice team in transition.”
Add in three more tall players off the bench whom Kimberley said would start for most 1B teams.
“It’s taken a lot of hard work over the last couple of years,” said Kimberley, the school’s third coach in as many years since he was hired and who went 4-35 the first two seasons. “We’ve made slow progress from being very poor, to average, to over the hump.”
“We believed we could get to the arena and truly believe we can win some games.”
Tough foes for locals
The schedule maker did Valley Christian and Almira/Coulee-Hartline no favors during last Sunday’s draw. Arguably, the four best teams face off right out of the chute.
Valley Christian is pitted at 9 a.m. against a Knights team that has won four of five 1B titles and seven overall. Three SC players do nearly all the scoring: coach Dean Wagenaar’s son, Trevor (21.4 points per game); 6-6 shot blocker Brandon Broersma (14.3); and Alex Brouwer (8.7).
“We have to figure out how to stop the coach’s son and the big guy,” Kimberley said.
Also on the Panthers’ side is last year’s runner-up, Neah Bay.
ACH plays at 12:15 p.m. against a Moses Lake Christian team that beat the Warriors by 15 points earlier this year, “and made us look silly,” Isaak said. “They have an incredible will to win.”
Colton carries on
How does Colton do it?
The Wildcats girls are seeking their fourth straight state championship (with second and third places the previous two years) and are a good bet even after graduating three seniors, two of them double-figure scorers.
“Obviously, having pretty talented players helps,” coach Clark Vining said. “They love to play basketball and love to play together.”
There are also only three seniors this year, but the Wildcats are 23-0 heading into their 3:45 state opener against Neah Bay. They have beaten their foes by an average of 46 points per game. Five times they held foes to single digits and won three games by 76 points or more. The closest game was a 12-point victory over Kamiah.
“Honestly, we don’t have a lot of AAU players. We preach fundamentals and obviously practice shooting,” Vining said. “They do everything together. I try to get them when they are young to get them to be successful. Another thing that’s made us good is we focus (only) on the next opponent.”
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