King's Way Christian boys basketball team approaches the game in its own way

King's Way Christian boys basketball team approaches the game in its own way

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

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The score of the game does not matter as much as the prayer before the game.

That is the way of life for the King's Way Christian boys basketball team, and that way of life is the reason many of the athletes play for the school.

The Knights are driven by their faith.

"When I'm on the court, it affects how I react to situations," said senior Carter Coval, one of the three captains on this year's squad. "In the heat of the moment in a game, before I respond to something, I try to remember I'm representing my school and I'm representing what my school represents: God."

Being able to worship God and play basketball at the same time is a benefit of an education at the private school.

While some of the athletes on this team might have excelled at bigger schools, this is where they want to learn, to play, and to live.

Not that King's Way is not successful on the basketball court. The Knights are in the Class 1A district tournament, hoping to earn a berth to regionals.

But winning a basketball game is not the primary focus at King's Way.

"We're all brothers who play for the same God," senior Parker Ickert said. "It's special for me to put on a King's Way jersey. I'm representing something bigger than myself."

King's Way Christian and Seton Catholic High School compete in the Trico League in the 1A classification of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association -- the only private schools among the 4A, 3A, 2A, and 1A schools in Southwest Washington.

At their schools, prayer and reflection is encouraged, a part of everyday life. Same with their sports and other activities.

At King's Way, the basketball team gets up early every Saturday for an 8 a.m. practice, followed by a breakfast and bible study.

"Sometimes, if we've had a long week, or after a tough loss, it's tough to wake up," Ickert said. "But those practices have really helped bring us together. Breakfast and bible study make for an awesome time. It really benefits us."

Jay Becker, a senior, does not mind the early start to the weekend.

"The fellowship with Christ is a big part of our lives," he said. "I love playing ball every day, so that's worth it. And we get a big breakfast, too."

Sounds perfect.

But as with any teenager at any school, there are ups and downs in life, stresses that come about as young minds mature into adulthood.

At King's Way, the basketball players said they are grateful to have one another to help in that transition.

"If there's anything we're going through, we can pray for each other," Ickert said.

"We talk about our most trying times, we discuss our fears," Becker added.

This also helps on the basketball court, the Knights say.

An early season bible study taught Ickert about the benefits of supporting one another at all times.

"You have to bring people up," Ickert said. "In order to win, we need to care about each other more than ourselves."

This is exactly the kind of team coach Daven Harmeling envisioned when he took over the program this season.

A former Washington State basketball player, Harmeling grew up around the church, the son of a pastor.

"When I was in college, it really became my identity," he said.

After college, he wanted to stay in the game. More importantly, he wanted to share his walk with God. He is in his third year as a teacher at King's Way -- the perfect place, he said, for basketball and his beliefs.

"Teaching kids what it means to be a Christian-athlete is really important to me," Harmeling said. "It really transforms the reasons you play the game. We talk a lot about having an audience of One."

Yes, family and friends are in the bleachers, cheering on the Knights.

"First and foremost, though, we're playing for our lord and savior," Harmeling said.

Which is why he expects to be at King's Way for a long time.

"This is my dream job," Harmeling said. "People ask me if I want to move up to a 3A or 4A school. Nope. This is where my heart is."

Harmeling has surrounded himself, and his team, with others like him. His assistants -- Garet Studer, a 2004 graduate of Battle Ground, and Kal Bay, who played at Colorado State -- are Christians, too.

Harmeling also brought to King's Way the principles he learned at WSU: Humility, passion, "servinghood," unity, thankfulness.

"It's my hope those five principles will be ingrained in them and help them out in life," the coach said.

Of course, it is easier to have passion and be united after victories.

"When you lose, how can you be thankful in defeat? We're always trying to find the lesson, hold the guys accountable," Harmeling said.

And yes, they do pray before every game. But not for anything trivial like winning a game.

"I pray they will be reminded of how God made them to be," Harmeling said. "If we are superstars and win, or if we fall on our face, God will love us."

The basketball season is coming to a close. King's Way is hoping to extend its season all the way to the state tournament. But the Knights already know it has been a successful campaign.

Because they have been true to their values.

"Basketball is going to last four years in high school and for some of the guys four more in college," Coval said. "The relationships we're building here will last a lot longer than that."