The countdown continues for West Valley’s boys basketball program: Sixth place in 2000, fifth place in 2003, fourth place last weekend in the State 3A tournament.
“We’re inching closer,” said Eagles coach Jamie Nilles. “We want to take a bigger jump next year.”
Why not? Upstart WV posted its second-highest state finish ever to complete a 23-4 season with an all-junior starting lineup.
Although nothing’s for certain, there’s no reason these players cannot dream of even bigger things next year. The challenge for players and coaches alike is to be ready.
“I think our guys still have a lot of work to do,” said Nilles. “Our guards and ‘bigs’ aren’t even close to being tapped out on how good they can be.”
Nilles said that at the beginning of the season, coaches would have been happy had the young Eagles compiled a 15-5 or 14-6 regular-season record and made regional.
It turned out they proved they could play with just about anyone in state.
“One of our goals was to be playing the best basketball we can at the end of the year,” said Nilles, “and they sure accomplished that. Not a lot of teams finish on a win. They wanted to get the best record they could.”
After opening the tournament with a 55-46 win over White River, West Valley lost to eventual third-place finisher Columbia River 54-46.
“I thought the kids were very disappointed and could have lost focus,” said Nilles. “But they wore their suit and tie again and had business to do on Friday.”
The Eagles scored the first 16 points of the game and went on to defeat Clover Park 72-56.
“They didn’t handle our pressure very well,” said Nilles. “We got up big in that game, and they were never able to respond.”
In the game for fourth and seventh places on Saturday, WV’s defense harassed Sedro-Woolley’s point guard into an uncustomary eight turnovers, Nilles said, and rolled to a 78-54 triumph.
E.J. Richardson, a 6-foot-6 post, scored 23 and 29 points during those wins. Tyler Hobbs had an exceptional tournament averaging 17.8 per game, including games of 23 against Columbia River and 22 against Clover Park.
They were WV’s season scoring leaders, Hobbs with 422 points and a 15.6 average, Richardson with 380 and a 14.6 mark.
They, along with starting guards Greg Bradley, Danny McIntyre and Arton Toussaint all can be back next year.
Biggest loss will be senior reserve Rashad Toussaint. During those final two state wins he scored 29 points, averaged 10.7 during seven post-season games and was a relentless defender.
Toussaint had gotten into a fight with his point guard brother and been dismissed from the team after WV’s seventh game this year. He sat out eight games before returning.
“I don’t say one kid makes a difference, but with him we could have won two of the three games we lost,” said Nilles. “He was a big game-changer, and we need to find that (next year).”
Every point the staff tried to get across to the players, every move they made with personnel, Nilles said, seemed to work out all season long.
If they can rework the magic on a team that will be a year older and more mature, the sky could be the limit.
Titans on to state
University’s girls basketball players, currently in the midst of their second straight state tournament, are enjoying their best season ever.
But so are a lot of teams. The State 4A field includes last year’s state runnerup Garfield (22-1), last year’s 3A state champ Meadowdale (22-1), state placers Prairie (23-3), Snohomish (22-1) and Monroe (21-3), as well as several other schools with three or fewer losses.
Among them are the Titans (24-1) who beat Lewis and Clark 81-71 in overtime last Saturday for their first regional championship.
“I thought everybody came away from our regional final, win or lose, very entertained and very impressed with the level of play of those two teams and the girls,” said U-Hi coach Mark Stinson. “But it seems every year (statewide) seems to get better and better. I don’t know if it will continue or if this is an anomaly.”
Between them, Angie Bjorklund (37 points) and Jami Bjorklund combined for 60 points and were a perfect 24-for-24 from the free throw line against LC. Prior to Wednesday’s state opener, Angie had 501 points, a 20.0 average, and Jami had 409 (16.4 ppg).
Jami, a senior, is now fourth all-time overall among Greater Spokane League scorers with 1,141 points. Angie, a sophomore, has already surpassed 800 points with two-plus seasons remaining.
As for winning the school’s first regional title during its remarkable year, Stinson said, “It’s wonderful and great for the girls and the program. But it’s just one of the speed bumps you have to go over in pursuit of a state trophy.”
Good year, tough end
The curtain rang down on the finest U-Hi boys basketball season in 20 years, with a disappointing ending, one regional win short of a state trip.
After rallying in remarkable fashion the day before to defeat Richland on Matt Hanna’s buzzer-beating 3-point basket, the Titans were flat during a season-ending 63-48 loss to Gonzaga Prep in Saturday’s state qualifying game.
U-Hi broke even in six postseason games after sharing second place in the GSL with WV and Gonzaga.
The Titans’ final 18-8 record was the school’s best since the state-placing years of 1984 and 1985.
Coach Marty Jessett must replace seven seniors, including Calvin Jurich, who finished the year with 431 points and a 16.6 average, and Inderbir Gill, who scored 359 points, a 13.8 average.
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