Vikings will try to earn more respect against California power Long Beach Poly.

Mike Bethea walked over to the bleachers. The gray jaunty cap that had changed positions on the Rainier Beach coach’s head throughout practice pointed forward, framing a face that featured a wide smile.

He sat down and, while his players packed up their gear, he contained his grin just long enough to explain the cause of his happiness.

The longtime coach sees something special in this group of Vikings, a camaraderie and competitiveness that were trademarks of previous Bethea-coached state-title teams.

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“All 14 guys like each other,” Bethea said. “That’s so big. I look back to the 2003 team and the 2008 team. They were all good friends. That plays a big part. By them liking each other and getting along, it makes it easier for that chemistry to come together for this team, and that’s what I think is happening.”

He has a star player in senior Anrio Adams. Junior Marquis Davis sets a tenacious tone. And what the lineup lacks in experience, it makes up for in depth.

After two years of restless nights spent trying to conjure ways to match talent and chemistry, Bethea feels he’s found the right fit.

“Put it like this, I’m sleeping better at night,” Bethea said.

The Vikings (13-0), ranked No. 27 in the nation according to ESPNHS, get their biggest test of the season at 3:35 p.m. Monday when they play No. 26 Long Beach (Calif.) Poly in the 2012 King Holiday Hoopfest at Edmundson Pavilion, one of seven games on Washington’s home floor.

“It’s exciting with the rankings and all of that,” point guard Will Dorsey said. “Mostly, it’s just exciting to play somebody from out of town, since we didn’t get to play anyone earlier in the year like everyone else that’s ranked.”

The Jackrabbits (12-1) feature two top-tier talents in juniors Roschon Prince — a 6-foot-6 forward who averages 20 points — and Jordan Bell, a 6-8 shot-blocker who finished a game against Compton with 14 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocks.

“These are the kind of games we’ve come to expect at Poly, trying to be a nationally recognized program,” said Jackrabbits coach Sharrief Metoyer. “It’s a huge honor being invited to such a prestigious event.”

Bethea said his team has carried a chip on its shoulder all season. The Vikings wanted to prove they were the best in the state, which they seem to be so far. Now they want to prove they can play with one of the top teams in the nation.

“It’s going to be a big one for us,” Davis said.

Mason Kelley: 206-464-8277 or mkelley@seattletimes.com