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Tulalip Heritage Hawks finish second at state
Blame it on the groundhog or El Nino, but March Madness arrived in February this year.
Like the Cinderella teams of the college tournament, the Tulalip Heritage boys basketball team made an improbable march to the Class 1B state title game six short years after establishing a basketball program at the school of fewer than 50 students.
The appearance being improbable only to those who had not seen the Hawks play anyone.
With decisive 20-point margins of victory all over their regular season schedule, Tulalip was top-seeded going into the Northwest District tournament. Tulalip overcame a narrow loss to Lummi early on to secure a third-seed slot in the state tournament in Yakima.
The Hawks handily defeated Oakville in their tournament opener Feb. 21, 73-45. The next night, they took down Tri-Cities Prep 58-50, and drew eventual third-place finishers Liberty Christian Feb. 23.
Against Liberty Christian, Tulalip coach Leon Enick said he instructed his players to keep their opponents out of the paint and force them to play from the outside. It worked.
We started out cold. They went on a 9-0 run to start the game out. We called a time out, and then we went on an 18-0 run. We went ahead and took the lead and never let it up after that, Enick said of the Hawks 66-51 victory that night.
Against Liberty Christian, Tulalip Heritage had three players scoring double-digits: junior guard Lesjar McKinney notched 26 points, senior guard Toby Miller 17 points and junior forward Antonio Johnson 12. Solid defensive play helped too as the Hawks held Christians leading scorer to less than half his 14-point average.
The win over Liberty Christian put Tulalip on a collision course with undefeated Sunnyside Christian in the Class 1B title game Feb. 24.
It was the game in which the Hawks met their match. Enick described Sunnysides biggest advantage as one, ultimately, of recruiting.
Sunnyside Christian is a Christian school, so they can go and get players wherever they want. They have some big guys, athletic guys. They just have a good team. Theyre a well-rounded team. They were the better team tonight, Enick said shortly after the game.
The 58-40 loss, only the Hawks fourth all season, was their second-lowest scoring effort, superseded only by a 35-point output against Darrington.
In the championship game, McKinney led his teammates with 16 points. Johnson posted nine points and four rebounds.
It must be some consolation to Tulalip fans that their teams outstanding season came on the backs of only two seniors, making the Hawks contenders for another deep state tournament run.
At the SunDome
Tulalip Heritage 11 11 9 9 40
Sunnyside Christian 11 21 12 14 58
Tulalip Heritage McKinney 16, Jones 2, Wooster 3, Monsigur 7, Miller 3, Johnson 9. Sunnyside Christian Koopmans 15, C. Van de Graaf 20, J. Brouwer 3, L. Brouwer 6, A. Van de Graaf 12, De Vries 2. 3-point goals McKinney 1, Wooster 1, Monsegur 1, Koopmans 2, J. Brouwer 1, L. Brouwer 2, A. Van de Graaf 2. Records Tulalip Heritage 23-4 overall. Sunnyside Christian 26-0.