CASTLE ROCK — When the topic of his game-high 24 points came up after Saturday’s 1A district championship game, Jaydon Hall preferred to talk about what his King’s Way Christian team had just accomplished.
“I just wanted to win, to be honest,” Hall said. “I just came out and did what I had to do.”
The individual accolades are marginal for the Knights compared to the big picture of their development as a team.
King’s Way claimed a 61-53 win over Elma to earn the 1A District 4 Championship on Castle Rock’s LeBaron Court, a performance showcasing the cohesion the Knights have worked on from the beginning of the season to now.
With Hall scoring 15 of his 24 points in the second half, Giovanny Evanson adding 21 points, plus six points apiece from Ryan Tyler and Jamison Duke, the Knights led wire-to-wire to secure their first district title since 2016.
“We’ve been working really hard to get to this point in the season,” Duke said. “We had a couple setbacks that kind of put is in a weird situation, then we got out of it and now we’re here.”
It may sound far-fetched now, but the Knights lost four of their first five games this season.
Granted, the pre-season stretch included matchups against Class 4A and 3A schools Skyview, Prairie and Mountain View. Yet the Knights also realized they had to work on themselves, on and off the court.
“We had an intervention,” Duke said. “Nobody knows about that, but we all came together as a team. Our big problem was unity, so when we worked on our unity, we started to get way better as a team.”
They also welcomed a new face in Hall, who transferred to King’s Way this year from Portland’s Mannahouse Academy.
“It was hard at first,” Hall said, “but we have good coaches, good captains. The team is very loving, so it was kind of easy after a certain point.”
Since suffering its last loss on Jan. 27 at Stevenson, King’s Way has been a tough out. The Knights won their final three Trico League games to wrap up a league title, then ran through the district playoffs with three straight wins culminating Saturday.
The Knights blitzed Elma to take an early 14-2 lead as Evanson and Hall combined to score 12 points through four minutes.
Then, the inevitable run came from Elma. The Eagles trimmed the lead to four toward the end of the quarter, and continued to hang around in the third when they whittled a 10-point King’s Way lead to five with a pair of baskets from Cason Seaberg.
In each of those instances, King’s Way didn’t panic.
The Knights opened the fourth quarter with a Hall 3-pointer to push the lead back to 10, and maintained a double-digit lead for the final six minutes and change until the waning seconds.
“Before the league championship and going into districts, our coach (Daven Harmeling) told us it was going to take poise,” Duke said. “Because teams are going to go on runs, we’re going to go on runs and it’s going to keep going back and forth. No games are easy after league. One big thing is, he said we have to be poised and play our basketball.”
The Knights now await their seeding for next week’s 1A state regional round, with hopes of advancing through to the round of 12 the following week at Yakima Valley SunDome. Last season, the Knights made a trip to the dome before their season ended in an opening-round loss to Freeman.
“We actually learned a lot from that,” Duke said. “One thing we focused on was not going into the season with knowing we have the same team and just thinking we can automatically go back to state. We knew that we were going to have to play even harder and get way better than last year to make a run.”
KING’S WAY CHRISTIAN 61, ELMA 53
KING’S WAY CHRISTIAN — Will Bump 0, Jaydon Hall 24, Ryan Tyler 6, Giovanny Evanson 21, Isaac Pisarczyk 2, Matthew Belefski 2, Jamison Duke 6, Dave Struthers 0. Totals 26 (3) 6-10 61.
ELMA — Anthony Holmes 19, Grant Vessey 3, Theo Flores 5, Traden Carter 4, Gibson Cain 3, Cason Seaberg 15, Carter Struder 0. Totals 21 (3) 8-11 53.
King’s Way 16 12 12 21—61
Elma 10 10 13 20—53