When fans last saw the Enumclaw High boys basketball squad, the Hornets were playing Renton on the final day of the Class 3A state basketball tournament.
With the score knotted at 50, a last-second bomb by Renton’s captain from the top of the key averted an overtime period and sent Enumclaw home with the eighth-place hardware as opposed to fifth.
The four sophomores who saw considerable playing time during the 2007-08 postseason effort will provide the nucleus for this year’s contingent and still have that memory fresh in their minds. That heartbreaking setback should furnish all the impetus necessary to make the return odyssey to state this season.
Coach Phil Engebretsen is dismissing such lofty aspirations though.
“We are going to have to first regroup from losing the nine seniors who graduated last year, some of whom were the heart and soul of that 2007 squad,” he said.
“How on earth do you replace a player like Julian Fernandez, who was capable of playing great defense and could certainly light up the scoreboard,” Engebretsen asked of the Cuban-born Fernandez, who is currently playing for Highline Community College and was the 2007 South Puget Sound League 3A’s most valuable player in his junior season.
This isn’t to say that EHS will be floundering in the reorganized SPSL 3A.
“I think we will be competitive,” Engebretsen said, perhaps understating things just a bit. “Lakes, Peninsula and Clover Park are all going to be putting great teams on the court, but I feel like we are going to be respectable as we have great leadership from our backcourt.”
As Engebretsen well knows though, this factoid is a double-edged sword, as 6-foot-6 Tarren Van Trojen constitutes about the only semblance of any real Hornet height.
While Engebretsen was hesitant to chisel any starting lineup into stone, it would appear there is enough talent from last year’s crew to at least pencil in prospects.
This begins at the guard spots where juniors Riley Carel and Taylor Myers have nailed down the two starting jobs, with an abundant supply of backups to spell that tandem.
Meanwhile, quick and aggressive 6-foot-2 junior Jayson Lewis appears able to fill one of the forward spots and there is a long line of candidates to occupy the forward slot on the other side of the floor in 6-foot plus seniors Wes Caldwell and Tanner Monstad.
Caldwell and Monstad are the only seniors among the varsity bunch, but the silver lining in this cloud of “inexperience” is that there are zero freshman or sophomores on this year’s Hornet contingent.
Those who were part of the postseason scene last year know they are in for a struggle with the additions of Clover Park, Peninsula and Lakes to the South Puget Sound League 3A.
“Even without Auburn and Auburn Riverside, this is going to be one of the strongest leagues in the state, with quality teams from top to bottom,” Engebretsen said. “We are going to have to work very hard on our toughness, aggressiveness, rebounding and communication before we can even think about doing what we did last year.”