YAKIMA — Three players hit for double figures and the Knights held off King’s 57-46 Saturday to finish fourth at the Harwood Classic State Championships in Yakima. It was the highest placing for Royal since the Knights runner-up finish in 1976.
“It was great to come out with the win,” first year head coach Ray Valle said. “I was a little worried with this being our third game in — didn’t know what we’d see from our boys but the effort was high — the defensive effort was there — guys were crashing the boards and playing great ‘D.’ They left it all out there — it was fun to watch.”
Valle told the team during the pregame meeting he wanted the guys to come out with energy and to have fun, which could have been a tall order for the 8 a.m. tipoff Saturday morning. But the Knights came out loose and got things going early.
King’s sank the first bucket of the game. Owen Ellis answered with a trey from long range and the Knights were off and running up 16-6 and the end of the first quarter. Sawyer Jenks opened up second quarter scoring, followed by an Isaac Ellis layup and a 3-point bucket from beyond the arc to push the score to 23-6 and prompted a King’s timeout.
The teams traded baskets the remaining four minutes of the half and Royal took a 29-14 lead into the locker room at the break.
Both squads came out ice cold to start the second half of action, missing shots from close and long range. Corbin Christensen got the first bucket three minutes into the third quarter. King’s then went on a mini 7-2 run to get within 10 points as Royal was having trouble breaking King’s half court trap. Isaac Ellis drained a couple of buckets to close out the quarter, and Royal took a 35-24 lead into the final 8 minutes of the contest.
Gage Christensen drew nothing but cord on a shot deep in the corner in front of the Knights bench to kick off the fourth quarter and put Royal up by 14.
A bucket by Jenks made it 40-24 and the Knights looked to be in complete control. But a Taylor Schoenfeld three-point play and a Royal turnover and bucket from Tyler Durbin closed the gap to 40-29 and gave King’s hope of getting back in it.
With momentum seemingly switching sides, Gage Christensen came up big again with another long-rang shot to put the Knights back in control, 43-29. King’s whittled Royals lead to 52-43 with 1:09 left on the clock as Royal once again struggled with the half court trap. The Knights regained their composure and closed it out on two free throws from Isaac Ellis and a bucket each from Owen Ellis and Raynor Beierle.
“Gage has been doing that (hitting key shots from long range) all year — he’s a real spark for our team — is clutch and not afraid of the bright lights,” Valle said. “The shot he took in the corner right in front of our bench was over two towers and he skyed it in there. It was pretty cool to watch.”
Christensen said he’s worked hard to perfect the shot. “I’ve been practicing everyday just trying to catch and shoot and when I put it up over the top of those big guys that were in my face it went in. I was just feeling it I guess.”
Another huge component to the win was coach Valle’s rotation of players that kept his starters fresh.
“That was a big key for us,” Valle said. “I had talked with my coaches before the game and we decided we wanted to get everybody in. All the guys have worked so hard this season and they all deserved to play whether we won or lost.”
Owen Ellis led the Knights attack with 13 points. Isaac Ellis added 12. Gage Christensen knocked down 10.
It’s been a long but successful season for the Knights who ended up as the fourth best 1A Boys team in the state. They may not have come away with the top prize in the Hardwood Classic Tournament, but the fourth place finish is definitely respectable and leaves the team hungry for a return trip in 2018.
“Our school hadn’t been to State in more than 15 years and to finish fourth give us motivation to be back next year,” Gage Christensen said. “We are losing a few key players to graduation, but we have guys stepping up so we’ll be okay — we’ll be good.”
Royal Knights 71
King’s Way Christian 65
Isaac Ellis hit for 17 first half points, Owen Ellis erupted for 20 in the second half, and the Knights staved off elimination with a 71-65 bounce — back win over Kings Way Christian Friday morning.
“It feels super good get the win. I didn’t want this game today to be my last one playing Royal basketball,” Isaac said. “I knew going in they were going to be smaller than me so I wanted to be aggressive and take it to the hole and that’s what I did.”
Brother Owen was excited to be moving on as well. “It feels great. I hate losing so I came out looking for my shot and gained confidence as the game went on.”
Isaac scored the first bucket of the game and the last one of the first quarter and Royal led 20-13. He duplicated the act in the second 8 minutes of the ball game and sent he and fellow Knights into the locker room with a 33-26 edge.
Owen hung 8 third quarter points on the board, and then hit for 12 in the fourth; the last two from the charity stripe to close out the scoring.
Owen finished with a double-double 23 points and 11 rebounds. Isaac ended with a double-double 20 points and 10 boards.
“It’s great to see the tournament Isaac is having,” coach Ray Valle said. “He’s been the rock of our team and Mr. consistent. He hardly ever comes out, guards the opponent’s toughest player, and scores like he did today.”
Sawyer Jenks turned in a solid 8-point, 11-rebound effort.
The Knights dominated to backboards 50-26, and scored 36 points in the paint. Kings Way had 22.
“We knew we had to control everything inside,” Valle said. It was a huge emphasis in pregame.”
Northwest School 50
Jamie Cockbum scored a game-high 21 points and The Northwest School got by the Knights 50-46 Thursday morning. Cockbum was on fire sinking 10-of-18 shots from the floor including 4-of-7 from 3-point range. The team finished with 11 treys in the contest. Royal sank just five from behind the arc, and that was the difference maker in this one.
Isaac Ellis led the Knights with 13 points. Corbin Christensen had 12.
The loss dropped Royal into the consolation bracket for a loser out matchup with Kings Way Christian who dropped its quarterfinal game to Lynden Christian 87-63.