Daven Harmeling finally saw a game, a moment, a performance he’s waited to see all season.
His young pups — a King’s Way Christian boys basketball team featuring a new roster from its state-bound team from a season ago — is growing up fast.
It’s how they closed out Thursday’s 61-52 victory over Hoquiam to open the Southwest 1A District Tournament at home to advance to Tuesday’s winner-to-regional semifinals versus Montesano, in particular, that has Harmeling beaming.
In order to look deeper into the meaning of their first-round district win, you have to look back at seven of the team’s nine losses coming by an average of 3.8 points.
That’s why Thursday’s win, Harmeling noted, is particularly noteworthy because he saw growth in late stages of a game when it was a two-possession lead with 90 seconds to play.
No momentum lost this time. The Knights won.
“It points to some maturity happening,” he said. “The exciting thing about a team this young and our depth is our best ball is in front of us.”
The Knights’ clinic-type outside shooting performance and interior play gave way to a momentum swing by the Grizzlies (9-12) in a rematch of last year’s district title game that went in favor of Hoquiam 64-61 at Chehalis’ W.F. West High School.
While Thursday didn’t have nearly the same stakes as a district title game, some in-game moments felt like it.
Hoquiam’s Matt Brown, a 6-foot-3 starting forward, led the comeback trail in the third quarter after his team trailed by as many as 33-14 as one point in the first half. He finished with 20 points, but not before getting the Grizzlies to within seven to start the final eight minutes.
Harmeling turned to Bryce Dodge, a 6-2 freshman, to put a body on Brown.
Dodge not only answered the call on his toughest assignment to date, but the freshman who averaged 2.5 points in 13 games played made an impact on offense, too. He was one of three Knights in double figures with 11, and six came over the final 3:43 and his dribble-drive off the top of the key and layin drew an foul on Brown. The field goal pushed the lead to 56-50 with 1:18 to play.
“My friends told me that was the most emotional they’ve ever seen me,” Dodge said afterward. “I was really pumped for that play. We’ve had a lot of close games this year and a lot of games we haven’t been able to close out. I felt excited we were one step closer to getting that win.”
Dodge had eight points in the fourth quarter, and also altered Brown’s next shot on the ensuing possession that eventually led to King’s Way closing out the game on a 7-1 run.
Khal Cason led King’s Way with 14 points and brother, Kobi, added 10.
No true secret to success, said Khal Cason, who led the Knights with seven steals: just execution.
“It came natural to us,” he said. Tonight, it was difference; it really counted.”