BATTLE GROUND — Brendan Beall never shies away from challenges thrown his way.
The Battle Ground High junior guard thrives on them, whether it’s challenges by coaches, teammates or, better yet, a challenge on himself.
And there have been plenty in a season that’s one of the best since the Tigers’ last state tournament appearance in the Tacoma Dome in 2001-’02.
The Tigers are back there again in the Class 4A boys basketball state tournament Wednesday against Kentridge — playing the Chargers for a third time this season — at 2 p.m. in Tacoma.
But if not for Beall, a junior guard and two-year starter, the Tigers might not have even made out of the regular-season at all.
That’s because on three occasions this season, Beall saved the Tigers.
He hit the game-winning 3-pointer in an overtime win over Prairie.
In 4A Greater St. Helens League play, he made a steal and lay-in with 11 seconds left to seal a home win over Camas.
In the regular-season finale at Camas, he drained a long 3-pointer off a screen in the final seconds of regulation to send the game into overtime. Battle Ground won the game to secure a playoff berth.
Plain and simple, coaches and teammates say: Beall is a pure gamer.
“When the lights turn on,” head coach Manny Melo said, “he steps up big time.”
And so have the Tigers. Battle Ground placed third in the 4A GSHL, won a play-in game just to reach the bi-district tournament, then won three straight elimination games and played four games in four days to place to earn the fifth seed.
Those playoff wins had dramatic moments, too. Battle Ground needed a game-winning shot by sophomore Kaden Perry to beat Olympia, and a last-second defensive stop to edge Puyallup.
And late-game moments happen to be when Beall thrives most. Melo challenges his junior shooting guard on offense and defense every game.
With the game on the line, Beall wants the ball in his hands. Coaches and teammates have complete confidence in Beall just as much as Beall does in himself.
“I love playing in those moments,” he said. “A lot of those games I felt like they might not have been my best games, but in those times, I know I need to make a play for my team.”
Beall averages just over 10 points per game, tied for third-best behind sophomore forward Kaden Perry and senior guard Vincent McCormic. Earlier this season, Beall’s career-high 31 points, with nine 3-pointers, came in a December holiday tournament in San Diego. That outside shooting is what Beall primarily was known for entering high school two years ago.
Now, Melo says Beall has become a more complete player. That’s another challenge thrown his way that Beall soaked in.
“I wanted to be able to make a difference on the defensive end just as much as I can on the offensive end,” said Beall, one of four team captains.
McCormic, a senior all-league guard, first played with Beall two years ago. Beall was promoted to varsity weeks into his freshman year, and made an immediate impact on a team that went 6-12 before Melo’s arrival.
But what’s changed even from a season ago is a boost in confidence that’s aided to the overall success, McCormic said. He called Beall one of the team’s go-to on-ball defenders.
“He’s incredible,” said McCormic, who set the screen for Beall for his eventual game-tying 25-foot banked shot at Camas. “People don’t appreciate how good Brendan Beall is. … Just everything he does in a game. He’s incredibly smart.”
The Tigers are in the 4A state tournament for the first time in 17 years, and Beall and his teammates want to make a lasting impression starting Wednesday. Battle Ground has six state trophies, and its last coming in 1991 (second place in Class AA).
It’s another challenge Beall isn’t shying away from.
“We want to be the team that puts something up there (in the rafters),” he said. “This year, we have more confidence winning the close games and trusting our teammates. We’re a very close team, and that’s what’s really helped us these past few weeks.
“We’re all really hard workers, and that’s what led us to be one of the top teams here the last 15 to 20 years.”
Wednesday-Saturday, Tacoma Dome (4A, 3A) and Yakima Valley SunDome (2A, 1A)
Wednesday’s first-round games
4A boys: Battle Ground (18-9) vs. Kentridge (20-7), 2 p.m.
3A boys: Prairie (17-9) vs. Ingraham (17-8), 5:30 p.m.
2A boys: Columbia River (21-3) vs. Anacortes (16-8), 10:30 a.m.
1A boys: King’s Way Christian (16-8) vs. Cashmere (17-6), 3:45 p.m.
Thursday’s quarterfinal games
4A boys: Union (24-1) vs. Curtis/Glacier Peak winner, 10:30 a.m.
3A girls: Prairie (22-2) vs. Bethel/Edmonds-Woodway winner, 10:30 a.m.
2A girls: Washougal (20-4) vs. W.F. West/Burlington-Edison winner, 9 p.m.
1A boys: La Center (22-2) vs. Connell/Royal winner, 9 p.m.