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Highlanders boys hope third try is the charm

Four senior starters have last chance to earn trophy

The Shadle Park Highlanders boys basketball team’s four seniors are doing something no other seniors have done in school history. They’re making a third straight trip to state.

Seniors Robby Douglas, Taylor Pettersen, Jake Rogers and Scott Anderson start along with sophomore Brett Boese.

“They’re obviously a pretty special group,” Shadle coach Tim Gaebe said. “Going to state three years in a row doesn’t happen very often anywhere.”

That’s all fine and good with the seniors, but they want to do something they haven’t done in their two previous visits to Tacoma. They want to bring home a trophy.

The Highlanders (20-4) open the State 3A tournament tonight at the Tacoma Dome against Renton (14-12). Tip-off is at 7.

“It’s awesome to be with the same guys for three years and be as successful as we’ve been,” Rogers said. “We’re all very close friends, too, and that makes it even more special.”

Shadle Park won one game at state two years ago and then was handled by eventual state champion Franklin in a state opener last year before going 0-2.

By capturing the regional championship, the Highlanders received a better first-round draw.

“The past two years at state have been disappointing,” Douglas said. “There are no excuses this year. We’re the No. 1 seed out of our region.”

Douglas, a three-year starter who eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for his career this year, averages a team-leading 20.8 points per game. He has 1,168 points and could eclipse 1,200 at state.

Pettersen averages 9.3 points, Rogers 6.3 and Anderson 5.9. Rogers averages a team-leading 7.9 rebounds and has a team-high 46 blocked shots.

Franklin overwhelmed Shadle with fullcourt pressure last year – something many of the Seattle-area teams are known for. The Highlanders know they must be prepared for it.

“We definitely need to do a better job of taking care of the ball and handling the pressure,” Anderson said.

“With the experience we have, I would expect us to do better,” Pettersen said.

Pettersen said he knows what has been key to the Highlanders’ success this season.

“We’ve learned how to win together,” Pettersen said.

Shadle’s four losses have been to 4A-level teams – one each to state qualifiers Gonzaga Prep and Mead and a season-opening loss to eventual Idaho 5A state champ Post Falls.

“Obviously playing teams like Prep and Mead has helped a lot,” Anderson said. “They were successful over there (at state) so that gives us hope that we’ll be successful too.”

Douglas says Shadle needs to play like it has been to state before.

“We’re a veteran team,” he said. “We know we can play with anyone. We’ll be ready.”

Rogers has a good feeling.

“We have all the right pieces,” Rogers said. “We have a person for every role.”

The Highlanders have had a number of close games. But they’ve found ways to win.

“We’re really resilient,” Rogers said. “We haven’t been blown out by anybody. Whenever we get down, we feel like we’re in games no matter what. We’re down six points against North Central (in the regional title game) and never once did the thought cross my mind that we were going to lose. We find ways to win.”

Anderson agrees.

“Coach has been preaching all year to us about finishing,” Anderson said. “That’s been one of our major focuses. It seems like we always get the job done.”

Gaebe appreciates the abilities and traits each senior brings to the team.

“Robby and Taylor don’t get frustrated or flustered,” Gaebe said. “Nothing fazes them. Robby could be 5 for 23 (shooting) and he has the mentality that he’s going to make the next one. Taylor is an old-school player. He is so fundamentally sound. He guards the toughest player. He takes charges. He gets his nose dirty. He is really the heart and soul of this team.

“Jake has come a long way and taken on a bigger role. He’s been big defensively. He has close to 50 blocks. Scott Anderson has been great story. He’s a program guy. He’s put in his time and has gotten better every game. The seniors have helped us win a lot of close games. They don’t get rattled.”

They want to finish with some hardware.