EHS BOYS BASKETBALL: Enumclaw cruises into state

There is a catchphrase in sports that professes, “Offense sells tickets, defense wins games.”

That never rang more true than Friday night in the first round of the 3A West Central-Southwest District basketball tournament in the Auburn High gym.

The No. 1-ranked Enumclaw High Hornets pushed their record to 22-0 overall by playing some exceedingly stingy defense, shutting down an 18-4 Capital High contingent by the score of 56-36 and earning a trip to the Class 3A state tournament in the process.

“We had seven days without playing a game between the beating Kennedy Catholic in the subdistricts and playing Capital,” said senior Hornet guard Riley Carel, who recorded 15 points during Friday’s win.

While Enumclaw is assured of being one of the sweet 16 squads to be make the March 10-13 state tourney in the Tacoma Dome, its district work is not quite done. Seeding games started Tuesday at Kent’s ShoWare Center when EHS was matched up against Foster High. The Bulldogs had beaten Hudson’s Bay 71-56 Friday at Hudson’s Bay High School. Results of Tuesday’s game came too late to report here, but will be posted at www.courierherald.com.

The Foster High Bulldog’s 6-foot, 8-inch senior post, Darius Page, scored a season-high 34 points against Hudson’s Bay’s crew and was a force to be reckoned with in the Seamount League during the 2009-10 regular season, as he was the second leading scorer averaging 18 points per outing.

Enumclaw also will play Friday at ShoWare, either at 5 or 8 p.m., depending upon the outcome of Tuesday’s contest.

“We spent all last week working almost exclusively on defense and I think that our focusing on stopping the Cougars’ productive offense really paid off,” Carel said after the victory over Capital High.

After a swiftly-moving first and second quarters, the Hornets led at intermission 31-16. Enumclaw tightened the noose around the Cougars’ throats even more snugly in the second half, as they jumped to a 20-point lead that was maintained for the remainder of the contest.

“The guys played great defense all the way through the game and Tarren (VanTrojen) had 10 rebounds to go with his 18 points,” said Hornet coach Phil Engebretsen, who last week earned SPSL 3A Coach of the Year accolades for the second year in a row.

“Having earned that trip to state took a little bit of the pressure off,” Engebretsen reasoned, “so now we can concentrate on attaining a goal that has eluded us these last three years. We would like to win the West Central District title and come into state as the No. 1 seed.”

But Engebretsen knows postseason success doesn’t come easy.

“At this stage of the season you can bet that any team you go up against is going to be pretty darn good,” he said. “But who knows, maybe this is the year for these guys. With a predominantly senior squad and great talent to go with that experience, I feel as though we have just as good a chance as any other team that will be playing in the state tourney.”