Think you had a long Monday?
The Shadle Park boys basketball team had to play in two full loser-out games on the same day to qualify for the State 3A tournament.
This was after having a week’s worth of games postponed by the winter storm that gripped the state and then braving snow, freezing rain and icy roads to make it to Kennewick High School, where both games were held.
They won. Both. And qualified for the regional round of state in the process.
“Well, we aren’t going to practice on Tuesday,” coach Arnold Brown said after the game.
Because of all the postponements from the weather-related issues, the WIAA allowed districts a dispensation to complete tournaments from the normal Saturday deadline to Monday at 5 p.m.
Shadle made the trek Sunday night. The first game – against top-seeded Hermiston (Oregon) – started at noon and finished around 1:45 p.m. The team got roughly an hour to eat a banana and get a sports drink in them, and were back at it at around 2:40.
DaMarius Brown scored 32 points with nine rebounds and 12 assists and the visiting Highlanders (14-10) beat Kennewick (12-11) 87-81 on the Lions’ home floor to move on to state.
Jake Groves scored 20 points with 10 boards and Tavion Rainwater added 16 points. Shadle went 30 of 37 at the line, including 16 straight in the fourth quarter to end the game.
Senior Carson Doyle, who led the football team as an all-league quarterback and 3A MVP, said as a kid he played three games in one day, but not with stakes like this.
“I mean, yeah, we were younger, so we had a lot more energy when we were playing,” he said.
“It was a long day of basketball,” Groves said. “A lot of us play AAU ball, but we’ve never been through two playoff games in five hours.
“We took care of our bodies, and came out and we played hard and were able to win both of them, so it was all good.”
Doyle described the pair of wins as something to remember for a lifetime. Combined with taking the football team to a regional game, he felt like he was part of something special.
“I mean, obviously that’s a good feeling to know that,” he said. “We were 3A champs for football and now to state for basketball, so it’s pretty cool.”
Brown, the senior point guard who transferred to Shadle Park with his father this season, said the team felt the layoff and extra game.
“The second game we kind of started off a little slow because of our legs,” he said. “And then we started to get it going to score a lot of points.”
He said his father, the coach, was the most animated figure in the team huddles.
“At halftime, my dad was like, ‘There’s 16 minutes left. 16 minutes. We can make history.’ And then, with, like, 4 minutes left he kept saying, ‘There’s four minutes.’ Then he called timeout with 16 seconds left. ‘Sixteen seconds left. We got this.’ We just had to (win) from there.”
The younger Brown said it took awhile for some of his teammates to realize what they had done.
“It was a pretty big deal, we were pretty excited,” he said of the postgame celebration. “But I feel like a couple of them, they didn’t realize it until we got home that night, and then they were real happy.
“So yeah, it was a good thing.”
Brown said it was challenging keeping his players focused during the week off.
“The tough part was like, we’d get motivated and all sudden the next day – no game. And then you come back again with no game, then by the third day, the kids are like, ‘Coach, are we playing or what?’ ”
“We were itching to get back on the court,” Groves said.
The team kept busy shooting to stay in shape and worked on its game during the postponements, but nowhere near game intensity.
“Once we got back on the court, we were out to prove something,” Groves said. “We came back and were firing, and right now we’re starting to peak at the right time in the season.”
Coach Brown said the school cancellations in the Tri-Cities area last week were warranted.
“It was really bad down there,” he said. “We went down and witnessed it firsthand. The roads were really slick after the freezing rain they had.”
Up next for Shadle Park, ranked No. 19 by the WIAA’s RPI system, is a road trip to Seattle’s Garfield High School on Saturday at 2 p.m. for a regional round game against No. 10 seed Ingraham (16-8), the Metro League Valley Division champ, ranked No. 12 in state.
The Metro League is full of heavy hitters, with seven teams ranked in the state top 20 – including No. 1 Eastside Catholic and No. 3 Rainier Beach.
“We didn’t get the greatest draw there. Ingraham’s pretty good,” Brown said. “We’ll go deal with it we like we always have – just go give it our best shot and kind of see what happens.”
Of course, Shadle Park is no stranger to quality competition – Greater Spokane League foe Mt. Spokane is ranked No. 2 in 3A.
Most teams talk about overcoming adversity, but Shadle Park has had more than its fair share the past few seasons.
Brown is the team’s third head coach in as many years. When he was hired he brought in a completely new staff, including not retaining the fathers of two of his players. He didn’t start at the school until September, after fulfilling responsibilities over the summer at his previous stop at Wapato High School.
“We had a whole summer plan for Wapato,” Brown said. “When I got the job (at Shadle Park), I didn’t want to leave those kids hanging.”
The football team’s upset of Mt. Spokane in the 3A title game and resulting regional game kept those players away from practice at the start of the season.
At Brown’s first meeting with his team, he tried to get everyone on the same page, but he acknowledged that the Highlanders’ season was going to be a long work in progress. He brought cred to the job with him, though, having taken 1A Medical Lake and 2A Wapato to state tournaments in his career.
“I explained to the kids, ‘We’re going to be behind everybody. I don’t even know you yet. The only person I know here is my son.’
“The biggest thing we needed to get going was our chemistry, and see if we could get them playing defense.”
Groves, who is headed to Eastern Washington to join his brother Tanner with the Eagles, said the adjustment of three coaches in three years has taken its toll, especially for him and his fellow six returning seniors.
“It was tough getting a new coach in here, especially three of them in three years,” Groves said. “You need to come out and show them, three different people, how good you are. And so it’s been tough for me personally, and it’s been also tough for our team.”
Coach Brown said it’s taken this long in the season for his team to come together.
“It’s always hard, you know how it is, to get to know somebody and trust them and believe what they’re saying. Not knowing the kids, that was the hard part.”
Brown said he was looking forward to returning to Spokane, where his Air Force father settled in 1978 after spending time in Japan.
But Brown said it was up to his son.
“It’s been really hard on my son,” he said. “I was like, ‘What do you want to do? It’s your senior year.’ He’s like, ‘No, Dad, I’m gonna go where you want to go.’ ”
“When I first moved, I only knew, like, two kids on the team,” the younger Brown said. “And it was weird having to adjust to a whole new school and people that I don’t know.
“I’m starting to know more people.”
Coach Brown said it was a little tough at the start to get the community to buy into the new coach and his son coming into the program – especially since he inherited a team with seven seniors.
“We had to go through some stuff,” he said. “And people don’t understand – which is fine, it’s natural. We’re kind of used to it. But I think now they’ve figured out what we’re doing.
“Winning obviously helps.”
The Highlanders got off to a pretty good start, going 5-1 mostly against smaller schools. But losses to defending State 4A champ Gonzaga Prep, Mt. Spokane and Ferris got Brown’s attention.
“This league is so tight,” he said. “You start league play right off the bat, so there were crucial games we lost early. But we came back and took care of business late, so that’s always nice.”
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