Things haven’t come easily for Taholah during this tumultuous basketball season. The situation won’t change at state.
The Chitwhin boys and girls basketball teams will face difficult assignments in the quarterfinals of the state 1B tournaments on Thursday.
Taholah’s girls (losers of two contested games) will challenge four-time defending state champion Colton at 2 p.m. in the Spokane Coliseum. The Chitwhin boys (18-2) oppose second-ranked Neah Bay in the final game of Thursday’s program, at 9 p.m.
This will be the first state appearance for Taholah’s girls since 2010 and the boys since 2009. They’ll be facing teams with plenty of state experience.
Colton’s girls haven’t lost a state contest since the 2008 championship game. Neah Bay’s boys were third at state last year.
After going prolonged periods between games following the dissolution of the Coastal League in mid-December, the Chitwhins now face the prospect of playing three contests in as many days. The modified double-elimination tourneys (in which first-time losers are eliminated from title contention but can still earn a state trophy) run through Saturday.
Taholah’s boys coach Greg Stewart doesn’t think the hectic schedule will be a factor.
“We play better that way,” he said. “The boys are really excited about having a game every night. They stay in shape, so they’ll be fine. Our bench is strong, we’re about nine deep.”
Taholah girls coach Jerry Walther, who attributes part of his team’s success to its faith, acknowledges the latter will be tested by its early date with Colton.
“I got up at 2:15 this morning and I started reading about David and Goliath,” he said Monday without outward evidence of humor.
The Chitwhins would not be cast as Goliath in such a scenario.
The Wildcats from Whitman County in Southeastern Washington have essentially blown away their in-state opposition this season.
Their only loss was to a team from Idaho.
Last Friday’s regional contest was typical of Colton’s season. Savannah Chadwick and Kaden Dahman combined to hit nine 3-point baskets in an 89-27 drubbing of Columbia Hunter’s. The Wildcats led 56-14 at the half.
Colton’s average victory margin in its last eight games is 56 points. Junior guard Jenna Moser leads the Wildcats’ balanced attack with a 14.5 per game average.
While noting that the Wildcats boast speed, shooting ability and strong defense, Walther isn’t conceding.
“They have to lose sometime and this might be a good time for them to lose,” said the Taholah coach. “Like I told the girls, eight teams are tied for first and we have as good a chance as anybody. The thing is, we can’t make mistakes. We’re going to have to play an almost perfect game. We’re going to have to do different defenses and presses, see what works.”
On the positive side, Walther believes the quick Chitwhins are well-equipped to handle Colton’s press.
Taholah senior forward Dramikha Skaar, who had been averaging 18.5 points per game this season, erupted for 31 points in Friday’s 64-60 regional victory over Mount Vernon Christian.
Senior floor leader Laura James has been averaging 12.9 points per game. Like their male counterparts, Taholah’s girls boast some depth, with eight players seeing significant playing time this season.
Walther said his team had some issues — missed free throws, turnovers and foul trouble among them — in the regional win over Mount Vernon Christian. Nevertheless, he was mostly pleased with the Chitwhins’ performance.
“The one thing I liked about our girls was they didn’t hang their heads when it got close,” he observed. “They kept on working hard.”
While they don’t have quite the same credentials as Colton’s girls, Neah Bay’s boys remain a formidable obstacle for Taholah.
The Red Devils have won 15 of their last 16 games. Rebounding from a one-point district loss to Cedar Park Christian of Everett (not to be confused with Class 1A Cedar Park Christian of Bothell), Neah Bay submerged Waterville, 76-44, at regionals last Saturday.
Three players scored in double figures in that contest, led by Ryan Moss with 18 points. Zeke Greene contributed 14 points and five steals. Senior guard Leyton Doherty averages 14.5 points per game, while Moss is scoring at a 13.9 per game clip.
One plus for Taholah is that the Red Devils play the same up-tempo style as the Chitwhins — and Tulalip Heritage, the team Taholah beat at regionals on Saturday.
“We make it a track meet,” Neah Bay coach Gerrad Brooks told the Peninsula Daily News. “We are blessed with a lot of athletic kids, who are excited for another opportunity at state.”
Stewart hasn’t received any tape on the Red Devils as yet and admits that “we’re going in pretty blind in this game.”
Aware of Neah Bay’s tendencies, however, the first-year Taholah varsity coach has been focusing on ways to combat his opponent’s transition game.
“We’ve been working a lot on defense, getting back,” Stewart said. “Our defense has really been stepping up. And we’ve been blocking out (on rebounding) a lot more than we used to. That’s really been a key, not giving the other team second and third shots.”
Patience on offense will also be critical, according to Stewart.
“When we run our offense, it looks great,” he said. “When they don’t, they look lost.”
The Chitwhins received solid contributions from several players in their 57-45 regional win over Tulalip Heritage.
Five players — Ronnie Tadios-Tahkeal, Cleve Jackson, Jimmy Smith-Kramer and brothers Justin and Keanu Curleybear — scored eight points or more in that victory, while 6-foot-4 senior post Joseph Winn provides muscle inside.
Stewart said he would likely again start Tadios-Tahkheal — a 6-footer listed as a forward/guard — in the high post, then move him to the perimeter when Winn enters the contest.