Days before the Kamiakin basketball team began its fruitful journey into the Class 3A state tournament a year ago, Braves coach Brian Meneely had a question for the juniors who would inherit the mantle of leadership for this year's squad.
"The conversation was, where do we want to be a year from now?" Meneely said. "Their response was: league champs, district champs and a trip to Tacoma. That's been their expectation the whole way."
Easy to say. Much harder to do.
But after helping earn a third-place finish at state as juniors a year ago, Kamiakin's senior class has put in the work to fulfill every wish it envisioned. The Braves pulled out all the stops to put themselves in position for success -- summer leagues, offseason conditioning and weight training galore.
"Javan Williams was in the weight room the Monday after we got back from Tacoma, and Javan Williams had never sniffed a weight room in his life," Meneely said. "But he went over (to state) and saw what it took. He dedicated himself to getting better and is now an all-conference defender.
"I couldn't be happier with this group. They are a true team. They don't care who gets the credit. They only care about one thing: winning."
Justin Pedley and Zach En'Wezoh have been the core of Kamiakin's second consecutive CBBN 3A league and district championship sweep, combining for more than 31 points and nearly 20 rebounds a game.
Their inside play has been a virtual nightmare for opposing defenses. If you try stopping one, the other generally has a field day.
Pedley has saved his best play for the postseason push. The three-time all-CBBN selection averaged 19.2 points a game this year, but has averaged 24.2 over his last five. Pedley put up 29 and 27 in Kamiakin's last two playoff wins over Southridge and Kennewick to put the Braves in position for a second consecutive state berth.
All part of the learning process, according to Pedley, who recently passed Lane Schumacher for second place on the Braves' all-time scoring list with 1,072 points. He also moved into third on Kamiakin's all-time rebounding list with 496 boards.
"Last year at state, I learned how physical and tough you had to be. Every single team is going to be excellent, and you have to be good to make it where you are," he said. "You have to know there's going to be runs. You just have to weather the storm."
The top-ranked Braves (21-1) are expecting quite a storm against Foss (17-7) at 8 p.m. tonight at Art Dawald Gym in Richland. The Falcons feature the Most Valuable Player of the Narrows League, junior forward Dezmyn Trent. Providing plenty of scoring and defensive help is forward Dontiea Hankins and guard Marcus Chambers.
"There's a lot of things they can do. They play in a tough league, and with the athletes they have, they will pressure the basketball," Meneely said.
Kamiakin plans to go in with its eyes wide open.
"Last year we lost to North Central (in the regional round of state), but this is a loser-out game. We can't take anything for granted," said senior guard Cody Wilmoth, part of a strong trio of Braves guards including Williams and Cooper Clyde.
Something else the Braves can take advantage of is having a game close to home.
"Shout out to RUN KANO (the Kamiakin student section)," said En'Wezoh, who will look to ignite the crowd with an explosive slam dunk or two if he can. "My goal is to get the crowd riled up. If the crowd is pumped up, we'll play better."
Meneely is looking forward to a memorable weekend not only for Kamiakin, but Kennewick High School, too.
"I see this weekend as a celebration of Kennewick basketball. I think it's awesome to see what we're producing basketball-wise. For it to resonate around the state is really cool," he said. "We're not going to see each other until the state championship, if we ever do again. That would be cool, too."
Streak: Foss -- won 4 of last 6. Kamiakin -- won 5 straight.
Key players: Foss -- F Dezmyn Trent (17.2), F Dontiea Hankins, G Marcus Chambers, G Noah Hunthausen. Kamiakin -- P Justin Pedley (19.4), P Zach En'Wezoh (12.7); G Cooper Clyde (10.3); G Javan Williams (7.0).
State appearances: Foss 12, Kamiakin 7.
Last state appearance: Foss 2011, Kamiakin 2011.
State trophies: Foss 6 (first in 2000; fourth in 1979, 2001; fifth in 1984; sixth in 2009; eighth in 1996), Kamiakin 5 (second in 1992; third in 2011; fourth in 1993, 1995; sixth in 1994)