They say there is no substitute for experience.
When the dust had settled from the Class 3A state basketball championships in the Tacoma Dome, a scrappy Enumclaw High boys’ squad, whose nucleus is made up almost exclusively of juniors, found there is perhaps a measure of truth to that old axiom.
In three days of battle with senior-laden teams like the very tall Meadowdale bunch and multi-faceted Seattle Prep, the Hornet crew learned that perhaps that old saying is far more accurate than their shooting was from the floor throughout the tournament.
Two of the Hornets’ three state foes were from the highly-competitive Metro League Mountain Division in O’Dea and Seattle Prep, with Meadowdale sandwiched between.
The journey began March 11 against a talented and equally inexperienced Fighting Irish squad from O’Dea High. EHS emerged with a 45-42 victory.
One of O’Dea’s few proven veterans was 6-foot, 6-inch senior forward Sean Jones, who scored a game-high 20 points, going 9-for-13 from the floor. Jones stuck with high percentage inside shots and nearly unstoppable turnaround 10-foot jumpers, and was the only O’Dea player to register double-figure scoring.
“Enumclaw is far more patient than we are as a team shooting-wise from the field,” Jones said following the game. “Also, they play great defense, are extremely good free throw shooters and they like to pound the ball inside with their big guy. They were one of the more physical teams we’ve faced all year, but they check you clean and don’t just wildly thrash away at you.”
Indeed, the Hornets stuck with what they do best. Junior post Tarren “The Train” VanTrojen, the Hornets’ 6-foot-6 big man, put up a dozen points, going 6-for-7 from the charity stripe, in the only contest where he managed to stay out of foul trouble. Riley Carel was Enumclaw’s leading scorer with 13 points.
After the conquest over the Fighting Irish, who wound up finishing fifth, the Hornets were on to the winner’s bracket, where they fell to the giants from Meadowdale High 47-41.
The Mavericks, from the Lynnwood/Mill Creek area, boasted the twin towers in 6-foot-7-inch senior spires Kris Larson and Connor Hamlett.
Enumclaw held an 18-17 upper hand at intermission, as neither squad was exactly hitting on all cylinders offensively. Each team shot just 29 percent from the field in the chilly first half of play.
After VanTrojen fouled out, the scales tipped heavily in Meadowdale’s favor under the hoop.
The bottom line was that the Mavericks hit 10-of-11 from the charity stripe and doubled their shooting percentage from the floor in the second half, hitting 9-of-17 to emerge with the win.
Meadowdale eventually took home a sixth-place trophy.
Enumclaw was still in the running for at least fourth place on Friday when it took on a tall, athletic and predominantly senior Seattle Prep group that, like O’Dea, came to the state tournament representing the tough Metro League.
Enumclaw held its own against Seattle Prep, leading the Panthers at intermission 25-24 before falling 54-52.
Taylor Myers, the upbeat and fiery Hornet guard, got in foul trouble early and rode the bench throughout the entire second period. In the third quarter, however, Myers, who was the leading scorer in the contest for the Hornets with 18 points, showed his mettle as one of the team’s inspirational leaders and took his game to the next level, sparking a third-quarter display.
“I was just determined to ignite the guys in the third period because we could have and should have beaten Seattle Prep,” Myers said. “They were not that much better than we were.
“Thank goodness, I developed a little bit of a hot hand. We really got rolling in that third quarter.”
That memorable third frame proved to be the Hornets’ swan song, however, as the shots abruptly stop falling and calls went Seattle Prep’s way in the disastrous fourth quarter, in which the Panthers outscored Enumclaw 18-9.
There was more than a little controversy at the end of the game as Seattle Prep was ahead by two points and Enumclaw feverishly attempted to knot the score. Junior sharpshooter Coleman Clyde drove to the hoop and appeared to be fouled with a couple of ticks remaining on the clock.
Doing as he was instructed by the official who made the call, Clyde began to step to the foul line where he could have sent the game into overtime by hitting a pair of free throws. However, as Clyde looked on in amazement along with now-furious coach Phil Engebretsen, the other official waved off the call, saying that the buzzer had sounded prior to the foul on Clyde.
“Not a great way to end a great campaign,” Engebretsen said, “but these kids had a great season and they have nothing to hang their heads about. They never once showed any quit in any of the games we played this season.”
Reviewing a 23-4 season on the bus after dropping the game to Seattle Prep, Engebretsen figured that his team’s four losses came by a total margin 11 points, nearly half of those at the hands of Meadowdale.
While Engebretsen didn’t initially elect to comment on next year’s prospects, the inclination to do so proved irresistible.
“How could we not be a better team next year?” he asked. “We are going to have a fabulous group of seniors, with yet another state experience under their belts.
“This is a great group of kids that are really fun to coach and there isn’t any petty selfishness Barring any major injuries, which we were fortunate enough to avoid this season, we will be back here again next year.”
Reach John Leggett at email@example.com or 360-802-8207.