It’s hard to miss Jabe Mullins when watching a Mount Si basketball game.
The senior sharpshooter makes his presence felt with his play and his voice, guiding his teammates around the court.
However, there’s another senior leader on the Wildcats’ squad that doesn’t raise his voice as much as Mullins. He prefers to let his lockdown defense and three-point range do the talking.
Tyler Patterson, a 6-foot-7 senior guard, may initially look like he belongs in the paint battling for rebounds. But one look at his long-range shot and it’s clear Patterson is exactly where he should be.
“Personality-wise they’re different kids,” Mount Si coach Jason Griffith said. “Jabe naturally brings a lot more attention to himself based on his abilities and his personality. Tyler is more reserved. … But at the end of the day, he takes a lot of pride in what we expect him to do and need him to do. He holds himself to a high standard.”
Which means Patterson also makes his presence felt on the court.
“I think it starts with his defense,” Griffith said. “I thought last year he had kind of put himself in the mix of being one of the best perimeter defenders in the state. But I also think he’s one of the best shooters around. I think he’s shooting about 45 percent this year from (beyond the three-point line).”
Patterson, who is committed to Montana State University, is averaging 16 points per game and shooting 51 percent from the field. He is a lethal three-point shooter but also serves as the top defender on a team that focuses the majority of its effort on that side of the ball and is allowing just 48 points per game.
“Obviously, he can shoot the ball ridiculously well,” Mullins said. “But he really gets us going defensively. Coach puts him on their best player and tells him to ‘lock him down,’ and we know that guy’s going to be taken care of.”
Mullins has seen his backcourt mate, who he has been playing with since third grade, really hone his craft in his time at Mount Si. He remembers a conversation between Griffith and Patterson from his freshman year — Griffith’s first year as coach of the Wildcats.
“Coach came to him freshman year and was like, ‘If you want to play at the next level, Division I, you need to get your defense going,’” recalled Mullins, who is committed to Saint Mary’s. “’Everyone knows you can shoot it.’ He started to defend and use his length. He’s a 6-7 guard. He’s got great range and athleticism.”
The duo’s familiarity has its benefits on the court. Mullins believes he and Patterson “instinctively know” where the other will be on the court.
“I’ve felt like we could be blindfolded and I could pass the ball to where he’s going to be on the court,” Patterson said. “We’ve just been playing together forever. It’s been a really big advantage for both of us. We have a sense of where we’re going to be.”
While Griffith is unlikely to endorse blindfolded passes, he recognizes the special bond his two seniors have and agrees it benefits his entire third-ranked Wildcats (23-4) squad.
Mullins and Patterson are two of seven players listed at 6-foot-6 or taller for a Mount Si team that is eager to return to Tacoma and write a different finale to their season. The Wildcats fell to Gonzaga Prep 69-43 in last year’s state title game and Mount Si has been eagerly awaiting a chance to return to the Tacoma Dome and reach the pinnacle of the state tournament for the first time since 1977.
“It’s state championship or bust,” Mullins said. “We all feel that way. We think that we’re the best team in the state. … We just really want to win that state championship.”
Added Patterson: “This is our last ride and we don’t want to take it for granted. We’ve just got to go out and give it our all. Hopefully, the ball rolls our way and we come out on top.”
Five things to watch
Champ is here: The two-time defending champs are back in the tournament but have an uphill battle to a threepeat. No. 8 Gonzaga Prep couldn’t upset No. 1 Union in regionals, falling 66-64, so it is going to have to win four games in Tacoma.
So is Mr. Basketball: Top-ranked Union enters the Hardwood Classic as the No. 1 team in the state. Led by the Class 4A Greater St. Helens League player of the year, and the state coaches’ association all-classification Mr. Basketball, Tanner Toolson, the Titans are a perfect 25-0 this season.
At their Peak: Class 4A’s other undefeated squad, No. 2 Glacier Peak, has run the table while allowing just 45 points per game this season. The Grizzlies are back at state for the fourth consecutive time and eighth overall in the relatively young program’s history that began in 2008.
Staying close: Two of the top four juniors in the state, according to 247Sports.com, are in the Class 4A field and will be playing close to home at the next level. Olympia’s Jackson Grant, a Washington commit, and Battle Ground’s Kaden Perry, a Gonzaga commit, are playing on Wednesday.
Reach for the sky: Skyview is back at the Hardwood Classic for the second time in the last three years. Those are also the only two state appearances for the Vancouver school, which opened in 1997. Skyview is one of just three teams this season to play Union in a game decided by less than 10 points. The other two, Battle Ground and Gonzaga Prep, will also be at the Hardwood Classic.