Coaches are constantly preaching about playing one game at a time.
But when the elephant in the corner of the room is an unbeaten three-time defending state champion, it can be almost impossible to ignore. That’s true, even if it’s not your most immediate challenge – and especially when that elephant has already stomped on you four times.
That’s why Davenport coach Tim Zeiler and his players can’t help taking a quick peek ahead at the possibility of getting one last crack at top-ranked Northwest Christian in Saturday’s title game of the State 2B boys basketball championships at the Arena.
The Gorillas (19-7) still have some heavy lifting to do in today’s 6 p.m. semifinal matchup against White Swan (21-2) before getting another chance to check the “Beat Northwest Christian” entry off their preseason bucket list.
But if they get it done – and the Crusaders (27-0) hold up their end of the deal by turning back Garfield-Palouse in today’s 8 p.m. semifinal – don’t expect intimidation to factor into what would be an all-Bi-County League title showdown.
“At the beginning of the season, we wrote down on a piece of paper what we wanted as a group,” said Davenport junior point guard Jarod Gunning, who finished with a team-high 19 points, three assists and three steals in Thursday night’s 54-46 second-round win over Adna. “The whole season we’ve told ourselves we’re going to trophy at state, and that the last time we play Northwest Christian, we’re going to beat them.
“So far we’ve played them four times and haven’t got it done. But that’s OK, because, hopefully, we’ll get another chance.”
Davenport, however, isn’t the only remaining team in the winners’ bracket that admits to having looked ahead to testing itself against the best.
Mid-Valley regular-season co-champion White Swan, which earned its semifinal berth opposite Davenport by beating Pe Ell 62-54 in one of the day’s other quarterfinals, has also discussed the possibility of facing the Crusaders, who kept their record unblemished by thumping Napavine 55-33 in the day’s third quarterfinal.
“We talk and joke about it at practice – about who’s really No. 1, and whatnot, just like any teenage kids would,” White Swan coach Manuel Rangel said. “We keep stressing possession by possession, quarter by quarter and game by game to our kids, but if we happen to come across (Northwest Christian), great.
“It’ll just add to the entire tournament experience.”
The only remaining team that is certain of getting an opportunity to dethrone the Crusaders is Garfield-Palouse, which beat La Conner 57-29 in the late quarterfinal.
The Vikings can expect to face a deep, talented and vastly experienced NWC team that is attempting to become the first school in the history of the State B tournament to win four consecutive titles.
“There’s a tremendous amount of pressure on our kids,” said Crusaders coach Ray Ricks, whose team, in the minds of many, came in as a preordained champion and is right where it was expected to be – with a massive target on its back. “But these guys are focused, they have goals and they want to win another title, so we’ll see.
“It helps to know that we’ve been here before, but it’s also a message that we have to continue to battle.”