This isn’t the Federal Way High School boys basketball team that just won back-to-back 4A state titles.
It’s not the high-flying one that went 28-0 last season and won its 43rd consecutive game, dating back to the previous season.
But this 2016-17 team …
“We are more athletic,” said Marcus Stephens, who is in his third year as the Eagles’ starting point guard.
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But what would last season’s players say about that?
“I don’t think they would disagree,” he said. “Everybody on this team can dunk. Even the shorter players.”
Federal Way beat Arlington, 78-65, on Wednesday night to earn its 50th consecutive victory, dating to the 2014-15 season, and the Eagles need nine more wins without a loss to match Ferris’ 4A state record 59-game win streak, set from 2006-08.
But when asked, Stephens didn’t know the number of consecutive games that Federal Way has won. Or on what date Federal Way could tie or pass the record.
“No idea,” he laughed. “It’s not marked on a calendar or nothing.”
“I haven’t even thought about it. I’m just thinking about the championships and getting three straight. That’s all that matters.”
50Federal Way’s boys basketball team has won 50 consecutive games dating back to the 2014-15 season. That’s the second-most in 4A history behind Ferris’ 59-game streak, which the Eagles could match next month in a game at Mount Tahoma.
For the record, Federal Way could tie the record on Jan. 14 at Mount Tahoma and could hit 60 consecutive wins on Jan. 17 at Enumclaw.
The Eagles have continued the streak despite losing four integral players from both of those championship teams. Three earned NCAA Division I scholarships — Jalen McDaniels (San Diego State, basketball), Christian Jones (UW, baseball) and D’Jimon Jones (WSU, football) — and another was the 4A state tournament MVP (Ferron Flavors, South Mountain Community College, basketball).
But so much else has remained the same.
Coach Jerome Collins still mandated his preseason 4 a.m. practices, still demands structure to go with the team’s athleticism, and that the players perform as well in the classroom as they do on the basketball court. And he preaches the same team motto — that you can’t achieve greatness without sacrifice.
“It’s Federal Way basketball,” Collins said. “And we aren’t going to move away from that. We play our style, our approach academically in the classroom is the same, our approach to practice every day is the same. Nothing has changed.
“All we’re doing right now is trying to find that level of consistency. We come out one night and look like a great team and the next night we tend to struggle.”
Federal Way (7-0) hasn’t won by fewer than 13 points and has scored at least 100 points in three games.
“We have a lot of players who had to sit behind the older guys,” 6-foot-7 senior Malcolm Cola said. “Now they are starting and bringing it, and noticing we are all athletic, we can all jump, we can all dunk — so now we’re going to start showing it.”
Collins got to see that Ferris team under the bright lights of the Tacoma Dome in the 2008 4A state title game. Federal Way lost, 68-44, and the Saxons earned their 57th consecutive victory before their streak ended with a loss to Shadle Park in the second game of the 2008-09 season.
“That was a very good high school basketball team,” Collins said of Ferris, which went 32-0 in 2007-08 to win back-to-back 4A titles and featured De’Angelo Casto, Jared Karstetter and Shawn Stockton.
“Not only did they have talent, but they had a cohesiveness about them. They jumped on us. That team is right up there with the best I’ve seen.”
The best? That would be Corona del Sol of Arizona, which had Marvin Bagley III, the top-ranked recruit in the nation by ESPN.com in the 2018 class. The Eagles lost that 2014 game, 73-51, when Federal Way traveled there for the VisitMesa.com Basketball Challenge.
Collins also put the 1992-93 Kamiakin team that had 7-foot Kansas- and NBA-bound center Scot Pollard up there. The Eagles beat Kamiakin in the state quarterfinals, 37-35.
The state record, across any classification, is 82 wins in a row by Brewster from 1973-77. Morton-White Pass won 60 straight games from 2013-15.
Federal Way’s last loss came against Bellevue, 80-58, on Jan. 19, 2015.
Not that there weren’t doubters that this season’s group could continue what the last two teams did.
“There were a lot of them,” Stephens said. “People talking about who we have, or we don’t have anybody. But it’s really the same guys. That’s why we’ve been trying to score 100 every single night — to let everybody know.”
These Eagles press more than the past teams did, and Collins will confidently go 12 players deep.
Cola missed most of last season with a knee injury, but he’s healthy now, and, more important, confident that his knee will hold up. He’s stepped up alongside Stephens as one of the team leaders.
“We’re winners, man,” Collins said. “We have a state-championship mentality. But we also know that you have to work in increments to get there. It doesn’t happen overnight, and it’s not going to fall out of the sky. You have to keep things in perspective.
“We put the emphasis on the daily work, not the streak.”
One thing that’s different — Federal Way’s jerseys. They all say “WAGE” on the back. It has typically stood for “We All Gonna Eat,” but Stephens and Cola refused to say what theirs means.
“Not until after the season,” Stephens said.
From the sounds of it, though, Federal Way is preparing for a three-peat feast.
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677
CLASS 4A WIN STREAKS
Ferris owns the 4A record for most consecutive wins, with Federal Way close behind with 50 straight after Wednesday night’s victory over Arlington.
▪ Ferris (2006-08) — 59 games
▪ Federal Way (2015-present) — 50 games
▪ Richland (1978-80) — 40 games
▪ Lincoln (1975-76) — 38 games
▪ Lincoln of Seattle (1955-58) — 38 games
OVERALL WIN STREAKS
▪ Brewster (2B) (1973-77) — 82 games
▪ Morton-White Pass (2B) (2013-15) — 60 games
▪ Ferris (4A) (2006-08) — 59 games
▪ Reardan (2B) (1964-67) — 57 games
▪ Northwest Christian of Colbert (2B) (2007-09) — 57 games
▪ Grandview (1A) (1988-90) — 53
▪ Federal Way (4A) (2015-present) — 50 games