Paul Valencia: King’s Way Christian boys hoops team establishes own tradition

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

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I have to apologize to the King’s Way Christian boys basketball team.

At practice Monday night, they asked me to shoot a free throw.

Under pressure.

With just one warm-up shot.

I threw up a brick, and they had to run.

Doh.

So let me make it up to them by dedicating the rest of this column to their special season.

You know, the King’s Way Christian Knights are too humble to pound their chests and announce to the world that they have a pretty good thing going on with their program.

But I can say it: The Knights are the only boys basketball team from Clark County that has reached the state tournament in each of the past three seasons.

A Class 1B program, the Knights went to state when it was a 16-team bracket in 2010. They made it to the round of 16 last year at regional sites, but it was still officially called state. This year, the only teams that could be considered state participants had to make it to the Elite Eight.

Well, the Knights are elite now.

They won their first league title, then survived their district tournament to advance to regionals. And on Friday, they rolled to a 60-45 victory over Lummi of Bellingham to make it to state.

First-year coach Alex Kirk knew the team had some success in previous seasons. Still, he wanted to push his squad this season to get over the hump of just being a quality team. He wanted to change the culture of the program, to get the Knights to believe they could become a special team.

The Knights went 11-1 in the Columbia Valley League, then got to state accomplishing the two main goals.

“We feel we’re playing with house money a little bit right now,” Kirk said. “But we’re not going there just to hang out. We want to go and win some games.”

The Knights also have the proper perspective going into the tournament.

Sophomore guard Jay Becker said a loss would not be devastating as long the Knights reach their potential.

“We want to go out and play well. If we play as well as we can and someone beats us, that’s OK,” Becker said. “We want to play the best we possibly can.”

The team also is playing to motivate future Knights. A young program that will be opting up to Class 1A next school year, this run of trips to state is laying the foundation.

“We’re trying to set the tradition, not necessarily living up to something someone else has built. We’re building it, which is cool,” Becker said.

Josh Snyder, one of two seniors on the squad, said there is just as much pride for the Knights in their basketball program as Class 4A or 3A players have for their programs.

“And at King’s Way, I get to honor my Lord Jesus Christ. That’s a big part of it, too,” he said.

Just looking at Snyder, 6-foot-5, athletic, strong, and you know he could play, perform, at a bigger school. But he would never trade his experiences with King’s Way the team and the school for playing on a bigger stage.

As far as basketball goes, this team really did make it to state as a team. There is no huge scorer. Kirk said up to six guys can get to double figures on a given night.

Chris Crenshaw might hit six 3-pointers in one game, while the next game he is being guarded too closely, allowing for Christian Bukant to light up the nets.

Carter Coval is another starter, with Snyder and Becker rounding out that starting five.

Possibly because of the lack of big individual numbers, Bukant was the only Knight on the first-team in the all-league voting. After talking about the voting, the Knights took it as a compliment. They do not need individual honors.

“We’re not about beauty contests. We’re about winning games,” Kirk said. “Would you rather be on a list or continue playing? Because we’re the only ones still playing.”

It is becoming a habit at King’s Way.

“It’s hard to do something once,” Snyder said. “It’s even harder to do it again. But if you put in the time, you get there.”

OK, OK, I get it. I’ll put in the time to improve my free throws.

But that little extra sprint for the Knights was not too difficult. They should be used to it. They are on one special run right now.

Paul Valencia covers high school sports for The Columbian. He can be reached at 360-735-4557 or e-mail at paul.valenciacolumbian.com.