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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Gonzaga Prep, Almira/Coulee-Hartline boys hope to double their pleasure

It’s never been done in the 4A classification and just a couple of times in 1B.

So the opportunity that stands before the Gonzaga Prep and Almira/Coulee-Hartline boys basketball teams is rare to say the least. And it’s something they’re embracing.

They both want to capture state basketball championships to go along with the state football titles they won in the fall.

“As far as thinking about that, we don’t talk about it a lot,” ACH coach Graham Grindy said. “I tell them all the time, though, that what they’ve done this year is special and to not forget it.”

G-Prep coach Matty McIntyre owes a debt of gratitude to the four football players on his basketball team – starters Devin Culp (wide receiver) and Kea Vargas (safety) and backups Sam Lockett (cornerback) and Shane Eugenio (lineman).

The Bullpups delayed the start of their season as long as possible. But McIntyre knew they had to get started at some point or end up pushing so many games back that the middle part of their schedule would be overloaded.

So he chose to play their two nonleague games without the football players, including a season opener the night the football team defeated Skyline in the state final.

McIntyre figured the football players would need time to make the transition to basketball. Instead they hit the court running.

“When the football guys came back, I was astonished at how much energy they brought,” McIntyre said. “I thought they’d drag emotionally and physically but they came with incredible passion and energy. We rode that momentum.”

McIntyre thought that at some point there would be a dip in their play.

“We waited for a lull for them to break down,” McIntyre said. “It never appeared. We expected them to have an off week especially considering they had been going since August without a break. We would have understood if they had had a drop-off.”

It never happened. G-Prep won its first eight games, lost a late December game to Lewis and Clark and won the final 11 games to secure the league championship.

“They just got better as the season went along,” McIntyre said.

The same could be said of ACH. The Warriors, ranked No. 1 all season, take a 24-0 record into the Spokane Arena on Thursday.

All but one of the Warriors played on ACH’s football team. That’s common at many B schools.

“Their success in football has been huge for us in basketball,” said Grindy, who pointed out that all five of his starters played roles on the football team. “I got anxious before the season. I’m sitting there thinking ‘when do I get my guys, when can I practice?’ But in the long run it was good for them.”

Senior do-everything quarterback Dallas Isaak was the most valuable player in the Northeast 1B in football and was accorded the same honor for basketball. He doesn’t want the high of the fall and winter to end.

“It’s always been my dream to be a state champion in basketball just like in football,” Isaak said. “I want to get a gold ball. I don’t see any reason why we can’t.”

Warriors running back and wing Charles Hunt believes back-to-back titles is attainable.

“We have a good chance to do it,” Hunt said. “We’re confident in our team, we’re confident in each other and we trust each other. I’m sure we’ll be ready to go.”

McIntyre said his football players brought a confidence that’s been key to his team.

“Winning leads to winning,” McIntyre said. “It definitely carried over to basketball.”

Eugenio has provided depth and key minutes off the bench in the post. He said the Bullpups are well aware of what they can do.

“It would be really cool to be the first (4A) team ever to win titles in both sports,” Eugenio said.

Said Lockett: “We’ve talked about it since the start of the season. It’d be nice to get two (titles) for Prep this year.”

Lockett said unity was a key in football and has been a key in basketball.

“In football we were a brotherhood and we’ve brought that to the basketball court,” he said. “We feel like a family out there.”

Culp said the football players brought intensity.

“We brought a mental toughness,” Culp said.

Defense was a strength of the Bullpups’ football team and defense is a strength of the basketball team, too.

“Our defense is our signature,” Vargas said. “If our offense is off, our defense will hold us up.”

Culp talked about the joy of winning the title in football and what he thinks it would be like in basketball.

“Just knowing what it feels like to hoist up that trophy from football, I want to do it in basketball and cut down some nets,” Culp said.

That goes for the Warriors, too.

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