For 10 seniors on the King’s Way Christian boys basketball team, the postseason is familiar territory.
After two consecutive top-five finishes at the 1A state tournament, the Knights are comfortable when the bracket whittles down and the stakes go up.
Thursday, King’s Way looked at home during its first postseason game this season. The Knights led wire-to-wire in a 67-42 home win over Elma to open the District 4 tournament.
“This is the time of year when we’re trying to peak,” senior guard Skyler Freeman said. “We’re trying to play the best basketball that we can. I think it gives us a lot of confidence from the first guy up to the last guy on the bench that we can do what we need to do.”
Karter Graves scored 26 points and Freeman added 12 as the Knights advanced to the district semifinals. King’s Way will host either Forks or Stevenson on Monday for a berth to the regional round of the state tournament.
The past two years, King’s Way reached the state tournament largely on the shoulders of Kienan Walter. The two-time Trico League MVP now plays for the University of North Dakota.
This year, King’s Way (13-9) earned the Trico League’s No. 1 seed through its balance and experience.
“We had a lot of doubters at the beginning of the year losing Kienan,” Graves said. “We showed that we’re still going for that district championship.”
Graves, a senior guard, knew the importance of starting fast Thursday. He scored 23 points in the first half, which ended with the Knights ahead 41-21.
“We built a lead in the first half and took care of business,” he said.
Elma, the No. 4 seed from the Evergreen Conference, fell behind 21-8 after Graves scored 12 points during a 14-6 first-quarter run. The Eagles (4-16) must win three consecutive loser-out games to keep their season alive.
One win from regionals or three games with no margin for error. Such was the importance of getting a first-round win Thursday.
But you didn’t have to remind King’s Way of that. The Knights have been here before.
“We learned from our experience to take every game seriously,” Freeman said. “We did that tonight. We didn’t look ahead to other games.”
KING’S WAY CHRISTIAN 67, ELMA 42
ELMA — Brown 2, Tep 2, Peterson 9, Vollen 4, Spalding 0, Brown 16, Horton 5, Schneider 3. Totals 17 (3) 5-7 42.
KING’S WAY CHRISTIAN — Jared Jarvi 8, Chris Cotton 0, Luke Hoffman 6, Karter Graves 26, Gage Koenders 6, Matt Bryant 3, Karson Jones 4, Skyler Freeman 12, Koby Kimball 2. Totals 26 (4) 11-18 67.
Elma 8 13 8 13–42
King’s Way 23 18 14 12–67