The score might not show it, but the No. 1-ranked Nathan Hale Raiders were far from their best in Thursday’s 86-63 win over No. 7 Stanwood in the 3A state quarterfinals.
Though the Raiders rolled, they appeared sluggish and, at times, even disinterested in the win.
“For me, I’m just racking my brain trying to figure out how to get them excited about being in the state tournament,” Nathan Hale coach, and former NBA star Brandon Roy said. “They do a great job of winning games like this, and then they turn it on. Hopefully, we’ve got a switch we can hit and be ready to play like we like playing basketball.”
Roy spent several minutes in the locker room addressing the team, something not uncommon for a coach after a loss, but a bit more rare after a 23-point victory.
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“I just apologized first for not making sure things were squared away today,” Roy said. “Even then, that’s still not an excuse. We’ve got 32 minutes, and it could be our last 32 minutes if you don’t bring it.”
The undefeated Raiders, who are also ranked No. 1 in the country, will face No. 3 Lincoln, the only other remaining unbeaten among the 3A and 4A classifications in Washington, at 7:15 p.m. in Friday’s semifinals. If the Raiders are going to hand the Abes their first loss, they’ll likely have to turn in a better performance.
“It’s exciting,” Roy said. “We knew (the Abes were) on our side of the bracket, and we knew they’ve won all their games, but we don’t want to overlook anybody. Stanwood is a good team, tough team. Now that we’ve finally got through our game and they won their game, it’s going to be fun. Tacoma is going to be excited about it, so hopefully our guys will be ready to come out and match their energy because they bring it night in and night out.”
Senior Michael Porter Jr. finished with 36 points and 15 rebounds, both game-highs.
“I just felt like tonight he was picking his spots too much,” Roy said of Porter. “We need him to be consistent throughout the game, instead of just scoring in barrages like he’s kind of been doing the last couple of weeks, so there are some things we can do to clean up.”
Though the Spartans were overmatched, they weren’t intimidated.
“I’m happy that our players were not star-struck when we went out there,” Stanwood coach Zach Ward said. “I’m proud of how our kids played. There was no give-up. (We) competed right until the end. That’s why you’re down here.”
Roy did not make any of his players available to the media after the game, something that has been the standard throughout the postseason.
“It was just something that I wanted to do after the regular season,” Roy said. “I just felt like at this time of year we needed to focus in on what we have to do. Them being high school kids, I just thought I’ll do the talking for them. They need to be prepared to play. It takes a lot of pressure off them, sometimes saying the wrong thing and giving the other teams bulletin-board material.”
Roy said if the Raiders go on to win the championship Saturday night, he will make his players available to the media after the game.