Officially, Monday night’s King’s Way Christian-Forks 1A Southwest District IV boys basketball semifinal was listed as a neutral-site game on King’s Way’s floor.
Yet everything was status quo like every other home game for the Knights.
Except this one was a little extra something special for eight of the 12-player roster in the team’s final “home” game, celebrating a 67-59 victory over the Spartans to clinch not only a 1A regional berth, but also a second consecutive spot in the district championship game.
The Knights face Hoquiam — an 89-75 triple-overtime winner over La Center — at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Chehalis’ W.F. West High School for the district title.
While playing in the district title game is nothing new to senior Karter Graves, who was one of four current Knights on the roster that topped Kalama in last year’s 1A Southwest District IV title game, he knows how special it is for the rest of his teammates as first-timers.
“It’s a new feeling for a lot of the guys,” he said.
And it could be a repeat celebration come Friday night.
Graves had a game-high 24 points, including four 3-pointers and Joe Mills added 17 against the Spartans, who traveled more than five hours on a school bus from the Olympic Peninsula on a school bus for Monday’s 7:30 p.m. scheduled tip-off in Vancouver.
After a 36-all tie moments into the third quarter, Graves’ fourth 3-pointer of the game with 3 minutes, 58 seconds to go in the third began a 10-2 run that pushed King’s Way’s lead to its largest at that point, 53-40.
During that stretch, Skyler Freeman got going offensively, too. He scored seven of his eight points over the final 2:45 of the quarter as King’s Way had its first double-digit lead of the game.
Knights coach Daven Harmeling praised his team’s overall balance, and even their use of consistent ball fakes, jokingly saying — “we’ve worked on it so much, I think the guys will never use a ball fake again after they graduate.”
“When we struggle,” Harmeling said, “there’s usually not enough balance.”
There wasn’t on Monday.
Nick Pulicella added nine, and Matt Garrison chipped in eight.
Forks’ leading scorer, Parker Browning, finished with 19 points, but didn’t get his first points in the second half until 5:44 left in the fourth when the Knights’ lead was 55-43.
While Graves knows his team silenced the doubters that questioned whether King’s Way could repeat what it did last season in repeat as 1A Trico League champions and reaching the 1A regionals again, he knows there’s still one more box to check off: a regional championship.
“We’re 32 minutes away from getting that back,” he said. “That feeling of excitement and accomplishment … we’re one game away from the goal.”
KING’S WAY CHRISTIAN 69, FORKS 57
KING’S WAY CHRISTIAN — Nick Pulicella 9, Karter Graves 24, Joe Mills 18, Matt Garrison 8, Skyler Freeman 8.
FORKS — Johnson 3, Schmack 4, Ramsey 7, Baysinger 5, Browning 19, Adams 18
Forks 19 12 10 18—59
King’s Way 20 13 20 14—67