Enumclaw nails trip to state

Confidence – teams either have or they don’t and it’s crucial in basketball.

Wes Caldwell trys to get his hands on the ball as he weaves between North Thurston defenders.

Confidence – teams either have or they don’t and it’s crucial in basketball.

When the Enumclaw High boys found a way to beat a senior-laden North Thurston team 65-58 Thursday night at Puyallup High in the first round of the West Central/Southwest 3A bidistrict tournament, the snowball of confidence grew just a little larger.

“We are playing with a great deal of confidence right now and remain very poised, no matter what the opposition throws at us,” said Hornet guard Riley Carel, who was voted the South Puget Sound League 3A’s Most Valuable Player.

“We are confident that we can beat anyone and have been playing especially well in the fourth quarter all year,” he said. “If there is any doubt by the fourth period, that is when we put our foot on the gas offensively and lock it down defensively.”

Enumclaw’s big man, 6-foot-6 junior center Tarren “The Train” VanTrojen, agreed.

“We do play better in the fourth quarter than any other and I give coach Engebretsen a lot of the credit for that. In the beginning of the season he ran us and ran us and ran us, because he knew what it was going to take for us to be in the thick of the race for the state championship.”

That, as fate would have it, is exactly where the Hornets are right now.

With Thursday’s victory, Enumclaw advances to a bidistrict semifinal rendezvous with Union High of Camas at 8 p.m. Friday again in Puyallup.

Union managed to melt down a state-tested Mount Rainier group, edging the Rams Thursday in a high scoring affair 75-74.

Enumclaw was able to stave off a second half surge by North Thurston, which was led by 6-foot-5 senior sharpshooting forward Erik Henly. He took game scoring honors with 31 points, scoring 21 of those in the third and fourth stanzas.

With about 6 minutes remaining in the game, the score was knotted 55 after Henly sunk a 3-point basket from the top of the key.

“That Henly kid was carrying the team on his back,” EHS coach Phil Engebretsen said. “We haven’t had anyone put up that many points on us all year.”

The Hornets were able to keep the rest of the North Thurston crew at bay, as no other Ram player notched double figures.

Enumclaw was led by junior forward Jayson Lewis, who amassed 20 points, going 13-for-13 from the charity stripe, mainly in a fast and furious fourth frame in which the Hornets outscored the Rams 23-19.

North Thurston entered the game with a record of 15-7 in the tough Olympic League and its coach Tim Brown was familiar with Enumclaw’s work after watching spool after spool of film footage of them dominating the SPSL 3A this season, claiming the tough league’s title with a 15-1 mark.

“The only phase of the Hornets’ game that surprised me was how well they were able to transition on us,” Brown said. “As far as who impressed me most, who the heck could decide? Every player in their starting five is talented. Henly may have scored 31 points, but for them, Lewis scored 20, Myers scored 18, Carel scored 13 and their big guy managed 12 points and 12 rebounds. They are a very skilled and balance squad.”

With a span of eight days between games, Engebretsen said he had plans to keep the cobwebs off his state-contending bunch. “We aren’t going to be resting on our laurels, that’s for sure, because nothing is ever given away at this stage,” he said. “That is a long time between games, so I think we will just try to not stray too far from our normal routine and next Friday will come soon enough.”

Reach John Leggett at jleggett@courierherald.com or 360-802-8207.

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