KENNEWICK — When it comes to basketball, Kamiakin coach Brian Meneely is a big believer in the team concept, and the recent play of his 8-0 Braves speaks loud and clear to that fact.
One man certainly does not make a team. Here's one thing Meneely won't deny, however: Returning two elite post players to a team coming off a third-place finish at state certainly doesn't stink.
With the Braves' big-man senior duo of Justin Pedley and Zach En'Wezoh, the Braves have what might be the best post tandem in the state, which will make them tough to beat if they do return to the 3A state tournament.
"When you go against the elite teams at state, the majority of the time those teams are big and strong. You need guys who can rebound and defend. It's a big deal," Meneely said. "We've been pretty fortunate the last couple years to have a good run of bigs, and we're seeing a lot of the fruits of their labor.
"They spent so much time in the offseason weightlifting and doing plyometrics. That's when players are made. The difference between good and great is what you do when nobody's looking."
Nine months after the Braves' most successful state finish since 1992, the pair were more than ready to hit the floor in the winter and begin another journey to the state playoffs.
"Last year was great, but me and Zach decided we need to get back where we started," said Pedley, a 6-foot-6 senior averaging 18.8 points and 9.4 rebounds a game. "We took that vision this summer and applied it to our team. We see it as our mission to get back to Tacoma."
Pedley, who has been playing organized basketball since the age of 5, began playing post almost as soon as he hit the court. He's still deciding where he wants to play next season, but he has narrowed it down to a few choices -- either MIT, the University of Chicago or Willamette University.
"I was always the tallest kid on the team, the back center in the team picture. Sometimes I wished I wasn't. It seems like the guards always got the attention," he said. "As time went by I learned how important the post position is."
He developed his game with help from several coaches, but Pedley said Terry Watson -- who coached Liberty Christian from 2001-2011 -- taught him the finer points of footwork in the paint as a middle schooler. After junior high, he joined the Kamiakin program, where Meneely and assistant coach Reid Preppernau helped him hone his game even further.
"The first thing we noticed about JP was how well he passed the ball. Lately, he's developed his shooting ability and still retained the ability to see the floor," said Preppernau, whose expertise of the post position has been a blessing for the Braves' twin towers.
"He may not be the tallest guy, but he knows his stuff about post players," En'Wezoh said.
The 6-7 En'Wezoh got an earlier exposure to Kamiakin basketball after his three older brothers -- Jordan, Derick and Brandon -- all wore the Braves' red and gold. Now he's making the most of the spotlight, averaging 14.0 points and xxx rebounds a game.
"Zach brings a lot of enthusiasm to the game. He's really developed his fundamentals and basic skills a tremendous amount. The sky is the limit," Preppernau said. "He played quite a bit on the perimeter growing up. That's never a bad thing to be able to add those skills to a kid who plays inside."
Between En'Wezoh and Pedley, En'Wezoah is more explosive, often firing up the student section with an emphatic dunk or coming out of nowhere to swat away a shot on defense. But he knows the team doesn't necessarily revolve around him or Pedley.
"We knew we were going to have strength in the post with me, Justin, Alex (Quinn) and Joe (Hunt). At the same time, we know our guards can shoot," said En'Wezoh, who has committed to play next season at Columbia University in New York. "We're able to kick the ball out easily, and we've got a pretty high 3-point percentage."
Still, it's a comforting feeling for Meneely to know his durable seniors can handle things in the post, where things can really get tough in the games that count.
That's exactly where the Braves hope to be at the end of the year.