Bellevue Christian’s boys basketball team returned only three players from a team that finished sixth at the 1A state tournament last year, but once again, the Vikings will be making the trip to the SunDome in Yakima.
The Vikings are set to play the Meridian Trojans in the first round of the 1A state tournament on March 4 at the SunDome. The winner of that game will advance to play Lynden Christian and the loser will be eliminated. Before starting the state tournament, the Vikings played the River View Panthers in a regional playoff game on Feb. 29. The Panthers prevailed, 51-47, to guarantee a spot in the state quarterfinals.
The Vikings secured their spot in the state tournament with a 38-27 victory over Vashon Island in the district championship game on Feb. 20. Bellevue Christian head coach Brandon Kats said there was plenty at stake in the district championship. The win guaranteed the Vikings a spot at the state tournament, regardless of what happened in the regional playoff game.
“One of our goals we set at the beginning of the season was to win a district championship,” Kats said. “We knew the importance of it and prepared and we executed at the district tournament.”
While the Vikings got to cut down the nets after winning districts, senior forward Joseph Primas said they can’t get too comfortable.
“We can’t be full of ourselves because we won districts, we can’t be satisfied with that,” Primas said. “We have to remember that anyone can come out and beat us if we don’t come out and play hard.” As one of only three players with state basketball experience, junior guard Jared Whitton said he enjoys playing on the big stage.
“It’s going to be more intense and a lot more fun in the Dome with more people watching you,” Whitton said. “It’s going to be an exciting experience for the young guys and for me.”
For Primas, success at state comes down to doing the little things right, because all the teams have skill.
“Everyone is playing harder,” Primas said. “You have to do the little things each time, you have to box out and you have to play hard.”
While most of the team wasn’t there for the state tournament run last year, they are familiar with playing at the SunDome. During the holidays, the Vikings played in a Christmas tournament in Yakima.
“Shooting in a dome is different than shooting in a high school gym.” Kats said. “Hopefully those games we played over Christmas help, and you have the three guys that were there last year that can impart the wisdom that they learned.”
While the atmosphere is certainly different than a normal game, Kats said the team needs to just focus on playing basketball.
“The biggest thing for me is that you have to treat it like a basketball game,” Kats said. “You can’t be overwhelmed by the fact that you’re playing in a dome where there’s more of a crowd.”
With a lot of high-stakes games in a short period of time, defense will have to be a constant in order to have success. The Vikings will hope to rely on their defensive game, something that was apparent in their 38-27 victory in the district championship.
“We take a lot of pride in defending and we talk about it all the time,” Kats said. “To win a district championship, to place at state and to win a state championship, you have to win games where you don’t shoot your best.”
The Bellevue Christian basketball team is close on and off the court. Kats said that chemistry is important during a long season, and is a big reason for their late-season success.
Whitton said everyone on the team is focused on winning and seeing their teammates succeed.
“We’re all talented and nobody is selfish,” Whitton said. “We play for each other. Whenever someone makes a shot, everybody is cheering.”
For Primas and the other two seniors, guard Elliot Hohman and forward Malcolm Schiltz, this will be it for their high school basketball careers.
“We have to go as hard as we can,” Primas said. “This is everything.”
In his second time at state, Whitton said he is planning on taking in his surroundings a little bit more.
“Whenever I get in the game, I’m going to look around and see the crowd and see all the people watching,” Whitton said. “That’s probably never going to happen again after my high school career.”