YAKIMA — Routines, superstitions, biorhythms — Rick Skeen believes in them all.
And he’s made believers out of his King’s High School players, too. If winning a pair of 9 a.m. games at the Class 1A state boys basketball tournament means practicing at before dawn during the week — well, we’ll set the alarms, coach!
After beating defending-champion Zillah in Wednesday’s elimination round with a precision performance, the 14th-seeded Knights were even sharper Thursday, shredding No. 4 River View of Kennewick 76-41 to advance to the semifinals.
“We had two 5 a.m. practices the days before,” King’s sophomore Tyler Linhardt said. “We got up and got to practicing and did our stuff before school and watched film after to get us ready for the early morning routine. That helped prepare us.”
And, boy, were they prepared, especially after a pair of 7 a.m. walk-throughs. River View (22-3), on the other hand, never got the wake-up call and trailed 24-7 after one quarter and 43-14 after two. While King’s shot 59.3 percent in the half (including 6 of 8 three-pointers), the Panthers made a paltry 20.0 (9.1 on threes).
“We talk about biorhythms and getting their bodies ready and for four straight days they’ve been up and crackling,” Skeen said. “They’ve had that look in their eye for two straight days. They’ve been super-focused, very businesslike. And my two sophomore kids are pretty good.”
Indeed — the 6-foot-7 Lindhardt, who worked hard in the offseason to shed 25 pounds, finished with 26 points (23 in the first half), while 6-5 Jordan Hansen added 22.
Even Linhardt admitted it was far easier than he expected, although the Knights never take anything for granted.
“We prepare for games the same way, like it’s a state championship,” he said. “He (Skeen) writes it on the board every time. Every game is a state championship. You’ve got to win four of them. We come out like every game is our hardest opponent.”
The next opponent is a familiar one — No. 1 Seattle Academy (24-1) in the semifinals Friday at 3:45 p.m. back at the Yakima Valley SunDome. The two met in the championship of their bi-district tournament two weeks ago, when the Cardinals won 76-57.
Seattle Academy advanced to the semis with a 64-51 victory over King’s Way Christian, avenging last year’s quarterfinal loss. The Cardinals have won 17 in a row.
The Knights’ 17-10 record is deceiving — they lost two close games to Class 4A state teams (Mount Si and Glacier Peak), three in a big Arizona tournament and three Class 2A state teams (Lakewood, Tumwater and Lynden).
“I think that’s what prepares us,” Skeen said. “It gives you an advantage when kids have been there.”
It’s one reason the Knights have been in the trophy zone for the eighth straight year, coming off last year’s third-place finish after a semifinal loss to King’s Way Christian. They won titles in 2015 and ’16, led by Corey Kispert, now at Gonzaga. And they were third in 2017, when Kispert missed the stretch run of his senior year with a broken foot.
Still, they’ve embraced the underdog role after surviving two loser-out games in the postseason.
“Coming in at the 14th seed, we’ve got nothing to lose,” Hansen said. “We’re very confident.”
The No. 6 King’s girls (19-8) were knocked into the consolation bracket by No. 5 La Salle 41-37. Trista Hull had 19 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks for the Lightning (20-3).
- No. 4 Lindbergh (25-3) advanced to the Class 2A boys semifinals with a 57-54 win against No. 6 Tumwater (20-5). Xavier Bailey had 17 points, and Mo Kora added 12 points and 16 rebounds for the Eagles.
- No. 5 White River was knocked into the consolation bracket with a 64-43 loss to No. 3 North Kitsap.