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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

State 1B boys: Wellpinit returns to Arena to defend championship with smaller, defensive-minded team

By Dan Thompson The Spokesman-Review

When the Wellpinit boys won a State 1B basketball title last year, they did so with height and length.

This year, as the No. 2 seed in the 12-team bracket, Wellpinit is aiming to win in a different way.

“We are a little bit smaller, but I think we’re quicker on defense,” coach Billy Flett Jr. said this week, “and we’ve been dialed in on our defense the whole year.”

Just three times this season has Wellpinit (21-2) allowed more than 60 points in a game, and over its past seven games it has allowed an average of 51.3. It is scoring plenty, too: Nine times this year, Wellpinit has scored at least 80 points.

Wellpinit’s first game will come 2 p.m. Thursday at the Arena against either No. 8 Naselle (19-4) or No. 16 Columbia Adventist (17-8), both of which play in the Columbia Valley league. Naselle won both regular-season matchups but only by a combined six points.

A potential semifinal matchup with No. 3 Moses Lake Christian/Covenant Christian (20-1) awaits.

Flett said he watched MLC/CC during regionals and was impressed. He was also eager to watch No. 1 seed Lummi Nation (23-1) play its opening-round game at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.

But first things first, Flett said.

“We’ve got to get by (our first) game,” he said. “We can’t overlook it.”

In the top half of the bracket sits No. 6 Cusick, the other Northeast 1B team remaining in the bracket. Cusick is trying to win its second state championship in three years after going 1-2 at state last year, including a 64-36 loss to league rival Wellpinit.

This year, Cusick is 19-4 overall and has lost two in a row – to Wellpinit (82-56) and to MLC/CC (64-54) in a regional seeding game.

Wellpinit’s game Thursday marks a milestone for Flett: It will be his 500th as the team’s head coach, a position he’s held for 20 years. Over that span, his teams are 373-126.

He gets credit for the losses, Flett said, while the players get the credit for the wins.

“We set the bar high last year,” Flett said, “but we’re able to even set it higher this year. We just have to stay the course and stay focused.”