They finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in the always-tough Greater Spokane League, yet the University and Shadle Park boys basketball teams are on the brink of state berths.
Victories on Friday will give them tickets to Tacoma.
“We’ve done some things to put ourselves in this position and that’s a positive,” Shadle coach Tim Gaebe said.
University seeks its third-straight trip to the State 3A tournament.
Titans coach Garrick Phillips credits a difficult league for putting his team in this position.
“It’s been huge,” Phillips said. “You survive or die. There’s not much in between.”
U-Hi (14-9) and Shadle (9-13) stay in the area for regional games Friday. The Titans take on Kennedy Catholic of Burien (20-5) at Central Valley at 6 p.m. The Highlanders face a familiar opponent, Kennewick (14-8), at Mt. Spokane. Tipoff is at 8.
It’s been an up-and-down season for Shadle, which came in with much promise. Most of the Highlanders played on the football team that advanced to the state semifinals.
Shadle coach Tim Gaebe expected some of that momentum to rub off as his players gained their basketball legs. Funny thing is it hasn’t – at least not yet. With just five practices, Shadle opened the season at now top-ranked Richland (22-0), and the Highlanders were within four points of the Bombers with 2:10 remaining before falling 98-87.
The Highlanders have won two in a row just once this season, and that happened when they opened subregional play. They topped Southridge 89-65 at home and went on the road to knock off Kennewick 63-60.
“We haven’t been consistent at all this year,” Gaebe said. “We haven’t played four solid quarters in any one game. From game to game I haven’t known which team will show up – the one that’s capable of playing well or the one that struggles.”
In the subregional game at Kennewick, Shadle held off a team that made 10 3-pointers and had a good look at a tying basket late.
“It could have gone either way,” Gaebe said. “We dodged a bullet that night. We’re going to have to play better.”
U-Hi played the top three teams (Gonzaga Prep, Ferris and Central Valley) tough once, but didn’t play well in the other game against those teams. So the Titans, too, have had some ups and downs.
Phillips figured his team would have some struggles, especially early learning how to play without last year’s league most valuable player, Brett Bailey.
“There were some growing pains,” Phillips said.
Phillips likes what he’s seen in the last couple weeks.
“We have a lot of different guys contributing offensively and that makes us a little more dangerous,” Phillips said. “We’re playing well together, communicating on defense and sharing the ball. I’m proud of how they’ve evolved. We’re playing a lot better than we were early on.”
Kennedy features a young team and starts three juniors, one sophomore and one freshman.