BASKETBALL: Key contests set for Tuesday night

Tri-City HeraldFebruary 4, 2013 

The Kamiakin boys basketball team has a chance tonight to earn a third consecutive championship banner.

A win over Hanford in the Braves’ Mid-Columbia Conference finale at 7:30 p.m. will lock up a share of the league title, but it can also give Kamiakin (15-4, 11-2 MCC) some momentum heading into the upcoming 3A regional playoffs.

But Braves’ coach Brian Meneely remains cautious about creating an all-or-nothing mentality about tonight’s contest, especially when both teams are already firmly locked into their playoff seeds.

“We don’t bill too much into one game. If this is such a big game, how big will the next one be, and so on?” Meneely said. “We look at each game as another opportunity. The kids understand what’s at stake, but you can’t build it up too much.”

Not to mention, Hanford will definitely have something to say about the outcome. The Falcons (14-5, 9-4) — winners of four straight games — are playing their best basketball at the most critical time.

They handed Richland one of their two league losses on the Bombers’ home floor, and now they’re hoping to do the same at Kamiakin.

“They have guys who can make a lot of baskets in a hurry. In terms of offensive basketball, they’ve got a lot of pieces,” Meneely said.

One of the biggest pieces is 6-foot-4 post Joe Douglas, a Division-I football recruit for Eastern Washington who leads the team in scoring and rebounding. But guards Jalen DeVine and Jalen Watson have been known to fill it up on different nights as well.

“Joe can beat you in so many different ways — shooting, on the block, on the dribble — so you can’t go in with the idea that if you take one thing away, you can shut him down,” Meneely said.

The Braves have been haunted by injuries all season, losing guards K Perrins and Javan Williams for the season, but still have a capable trio of guards — Cooper Clyde, John Petsch and Kylle Robertson — willing to put in the work for a long playoff run.

“As we approached this stretch, we didn’t want to come in thinking about winning the league championship,” Meneely said. “We approached it like we’ve got games against three quality teams with three different playing styles to get ready for the postseason.

“Here in a couple weeks, it’s going to be for keeps.”

Hanford girls (10-10, 7-6) at Kamiakin (15-4, 10-3): The Braves haven’t been tested much this year, but they usually get pushed to the limit against the Falcons, who beat them 51-44 in Richland back on Jan. 5.

It’s how teams respond to Kamiakin’s full court press that usually sets the tone early on. If Hanford can break the press and get the ball to Colette Gall inside, it could be a difficult night for the Braves.

If Kamiakin guards can get into the Falcon players’ heads, a fifth consecutive Hanford loss is likely.

4A District playoffs

Chiawana boys (5-15) at Walla Walla (12-8): The Riverhawks are looking for a way to right themselves after four consecutive losses, including a 41-40 home loss to the Blue Devils on Friday. They’re tough at home — league champ Richland needed a buzzer-beating jumper to beat them in Pasco — but this one’s in Walla Walla, where the Hawks will have to face Tanner Cranor, one of the league’s toughest big men.

Pasco girls (0-19) at Richland (8-12): The Bombers nearly chopped down Kamiakin at Art Dawald on Friday, save for a pair of late-game mistakes. Richland should be able to handle the winless Bulldogs without much trouble. The Bombers doubled them up 63-31 in Pasco back on Jan. 12.

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