With a roster that includes just three seniors and a mundane record of 15-11 entering Wednesday’s first round state tournament game against Inglemoor, it would be easy to assume the Enumclaw boys basketball team is a year away from accomplishing big things.
After a 52-43 win over the Vikings, it’s possible the future could be now for the Hornets.
“It’s a big win for our program, especially kind of being in year one of what we want to build,” first-year coach Terry Johnson said. “To be in the final eight and the quarterfinals, it’s pretty special for our guys.”
Enumclaw will play No. 1 Gonzaga Prep at 2 p.m. Thursday, while Inglemoor’s season is over.
The Hornets were led by junior wing Kaden Anderson and freshman point guard Peter Erickson, who combined for 38 points against the Vikings. No matter what happens the rest of the week for the Hornets, Johnson can be excited about the future knowing there is still much room for improvement.
“We have a long way to go as a program and as a team, even with where we’re at,” Johnson said. “We know that, and the guys understand that. We have a great group of guys, really humble and really committed to each other, so they deserve this moment. They’ve never questioned anything that we’re doing. They’ve never questioned each other and they’ve stuck together.”
Enumclaw led 13-11 after the first quarter, a period which neither team led by more than four. The second quarter is where the Hornets made their move. Leading 21-18, they used three straight 3-pointers, one by junior Griffin Webb and two by Anderson, to take a 30-18 lead. The Vikings cut the Hornets’ lead to 32-24 at halftime, but Enumclaw’s run provided the first separation either team had been able to achieve in the first half.
“It was very big,” Johnson said of the string of 3s. “We knew they would make a run and make it close. To get a little bit of separation there was important. We need to learn how to even build off of that, but that’s a growth area for us. We were defending well and then we put together some good offensive possessions, which is something we haven’t always done this year.”
The freshman Erickson wasn’t intimidated by his first game in the Tacoma Dome. He finished with 15 points, shooting 6-for-12 from the field and 3-for-7 from downtown.
“We’ve been really proud of Petey all year,” Johnson said. “Being a freshman, having a new coach, new expectations, we’ve thrown a lot on his plate. We’ve asked him to handle the ball for us a lot this year, as well as score. He’s handled it incredibly well. I think we all forget sometimes that he’s such a young kid, and how much better he’s going to be. I’m just so proud of what he’s done for this team and being able to step in with confidence and make big plays for us.”
Erickson provided the spark in the first quarter, but it was the consistency of Anderson, who finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds, throughout the game that carried the Hornets.
“I think Kaden showed why he’s one of the best players in the area, if not the state, today,” Johnson said. “He’s learning to be consistent. He’s young and inexperienced too, but he showed everything that he’s about and why he we can be so good when he’s playing the way he was today. It just makes everybody else better.”
The Hornets will need another great performance from Anderson on Thursday if they hope to upset the top-ranked team in the state.
“We’re going to go celebrate tonight, and we’ll wake up tomorrow and do the best we can to get on a short turnaround to get ready,” Johnson said. “We obviously know it’s going to be a challenge. We’ve played some of the best teams in the state already this year, Union, Federal Way, Curtis and others. We’ll be excited. We know it will be tough and we know it’s a challenge and we have a ton of respect for Gonzaga Prep, we’re going to come play too, and see if we can have some fun.”