TACOMA — Behind a blue-collar class of seniors, the Camas boys basketball team went places the program hasn’t seen since the 1960s.
They also left behind a strong example for their younger teammates to follow.
The Papermakers concluded its most successful season in more than six decades Saturday by earning a state trophy for the first time since 1962.
And although a 59-51 loss to Gonzaga Prep at the Tacoma Dome wasn’t the ending they wanted, the Papermakers (20-9) were proud of the season they had that resulted in a sixth-place trophy at the Class 4A state tournament.
“I’m not sad it ended; I’m happy it happened,” senior Theo McMillan said. “The memories that I made along this trip were amazing, and I’m going to remember it for the rest of life, especially here at state.”
“It’s not so much the trophy as the time we spent together,” senior Jamison Carlisle added. “I mean, we got 30 games this season because of how long we lasted. Just the relationships I built with my bros was bigger than anything else.”
Camas earned an extra game thanks to Friday’s 77-57 win over Skyline, which clinched a state trophy for the program regardless of Saturday’s result.
Much like the game the prior morning, Camas looked sharp in the opening minutes to take a 9-2 lead on two baskets from McMillan, plus one each for Carlisle and sophomore Beckett Currie.
The No. 5 seed Bullpups (24-5) didn’t blink.
They rallied to get within three points at the end of the first quarter, traded leads with Camas four times in the second before the Papermakers took a 29-26 lead into halftime.
A 13-4 Gonzaga Prep run to open the third quarter led by Henry Sandberg (15 points) and Carter Verret (12 points) proved to be the difference.
Camas climbed within four points inside of 90 seconds left in the fourth, but missed a 3-pointer that would’ve trimmed the Bullpups’ lead to one.
Carlisle led Camas with 19 points, while McMillan, Currie, senior Josh Dabasinskas and sophomore Jace VanVoorhis each scored eight points.
All were part of last year’s Papermakers team that came one win short of reaching state. This year, the senior group, which also includes Matthew Chilian and Konnor Limnell, embraced its status as underdog — and an undersized one at that. The Papermakers’ tallest player, Dabasinskas, stands 6-foot-2.
The legacy of the senior class is how they found other ways to win.
“I don’t know if there’s ever been a team whose tallest dude is 6-2 and (made it) here at state,” McMillan said. “We just brought the heart, and that’s how we won games. That’s the legacy I want to bring.”
“We were talking about it in the locker room, I think it’s just our mentality and our leadership with each other,” Carlisle added. “We’re all on the same level in our eyes.”
Younger players like Currie took note of the ways they led, which rubbed off on the rest of the team.
“Those guys have a heart that you can’t really create,” he said.
Camas saw firsthand what it took to get to state, but also, the gap between them and the top teams in the state. Soon, the work will resume for a group of players eager to build on the success of this season.
“I’ll get the guys in the group chat,” Currie said, “and their butts are going to be in the gym in the next week.”
GONZAGA PREP 59, CAMAS 51
CAMAS (20-9) — Beckett Currie 8, Jace VanVoorhis 8, Theo McMillan 8, Josh Dabasinskas 8, Jamison Carlisle 19, Ethan Harris 0, Channing Nesland 0. Totals 22 (5) 2-4 51.
GONZAGA PREP (24-5) — Jayce Swanson 0, Jackson Floyd 9, Jamil Miller 17, Ryan Jackson 2, Henry Sandberg 15, Carter Verret 12, Nate Christy 4. Totals 24 (5) 6-7 59.
Camas 16 13 9 13—51
G. Prep 13 13 20 13—59