SPOKANE — The King’s Way Christian Knights are moving up to Class 1A next season, but they have no intention of leaving the 1B ranks without capturing their first state title in boys basketball.
“We want to win the whole thing,” junior guard Christian Bukant said after the Knights opened the Class 1B state tournament with a 61-44 triumph over Muckleshoot Tribal School of Auburn on Thursday afternoon at the Spokane Arena.
Bukant led four Knights in double figures with 17 points, and he also had grabbed nine rebounds. Forward Carter Coval added 10 points and 11 rebounds, and guards Jay Becker and Chris Crenshaw were good for 12 points apiece.
Unranked King’s Way (18-7) takes on fifth-ranked Almira/Coulee-Hartline (20-6) in the semifinals at 5:30 p.m. Friday. The Warriors downed Moses Lake Christian 50-38.
King’s Way shot just 36.2 percent from the field against Muckleshoot (18-7), but the Knights held the Kings to 30.2 percent and outrebounded their smaller foes 43-25 before an estimated 1,500 spectators.
The Knights led most of the way, including 26-21 at the half, then fought off the Kings after they pulled within two late in the third quarter.
“We banged well on the boards with them,” Bukant said. “They were pretty physical.”
King’s Way converted 24 of 30 free throw attempts and put the game away in the fourth quarter.
King’s Way coach Alex Kirk, a boyish-looking 26, fit right in with his players after the game when he walked out of the dressing room wearing a backpack.
“Sometimes when the refs come up (to him before games), they’ll say, ‘Where’s the head coach?’ ” Kirk said with a mischievous grin. “I say, ‘Oh, he’s out back ... I think I’m going to take this one over today if you don’t mind.’ ”
Bukant said Kirk, a former Washington State walk-on guard who is coaching at the high school level for the first time, is “an all-around great coach” who prepares the Knights well with his scouting reports.
“We’ve got to give a lot of credit to him,” Bukant said.
Ryan Oldman led Muckleshoot with 15 points.
KING'S WAY CHRISTIAN 61, MUCKLESHOOT 44
KING'S WAY (17-7) — Jay Becker 12, Chris Crenshaw 12, Ben Nelson 0, David Veltkamp 6, Carter Coval 10, Josh Snyder 4, Christian Bukant 17, Joshua Kuramoto 0. Totals 14-32 (3-15) 24-30 61.
MUCKLESHOOT (17-7) — Buddy Brendible 0, Anthony Nather 4, Joshua Cline 4, Preston Brown 9, Sean Taei 7, Luis Esparza 5, Ryan Oldman 15, Alvin Allen 0. Totals 12-40 (4-13) 8-13 44.
Muckleshoot 11 10 14 9—44
King's Way 11 15 15 20—61