When the pressure is the highest, Steven Beo plays his best.
It doesn’t matter that he is a sophomore playing on a senior-dominated team.
Beo isn’t Richland High’s leading scorer, and he’s not their best player, but he has shined in plenty of big situations the past two seasons.
“I’ve always had a knack for hitting the big shot at the end of the game,” he said. “I love the pressure behind it. When I live up to that pressure, it feels amazing. I just like that feeling.”
Beo and the Bombers (23-0) open the Class 4A state tournament at 9 p.m. today at the Tacoma Dome against Wenatchee.
As a freshman, he was one of a few bright spots in Tacoma for the Bombers, who went 0-2 at state. He scored 17 points in the two games — doesn’t sound like much, but it made him the second leading scorer for the team.
“He had a great state tournament last year,” Richland coach Earl Streufert said. “He was real confident. He is just that kind of guy. He knows what he does well and he seems to rise to the occasion in bigger games offensively.”
Beo is averaging 12.1 points per game this season and has fit into his role of complementing Richland’s big three of Nathan Streufert, Payton Radliff and Jacob DeVries.
In the regional victory over Moses Lake, Streufert and Radliff were struggling, but Beo was there to pick them up. He poured in 28 points to lead the Bombers to the victory and a state berth.
“He definitely plays well when the pressure is on,” Nathan Streufert said. “Just like the Moses Lake game, he did a great job and really picked up the slack. He gives us the best when we are not on.”
The Big Three are not often off all at the same time, but it’s never a bad thing to have another weapon at your disposal.
Beo is the son of Tony Beo, who was an offensive star from 1986-89 at Pasco High.
While Steven can score like his father, he also has developed a better all-around game than his old man.
“As I was growing up, he tried to teach me to improve on things he didn’t have,” Steven said of Tony. “Like the ball handling, the rebounding and the running and stuff. The shooting is based off of him, though.”
The defense definitely has been a work in progress.
When he joined varsity as a freshman, that was the rawest part of his game, as his less-developed body had to take on juniors and seniors.
“I had concerns about him playing defense against physical kids when he started,” Tony Beo said. “Earl put him right in and made him work his butt off on defense. By the middle of the season, he was able to guard bigger kids. I knew he could score at that level, but I was concerned at the defensive end.”
Beo kept working on it during the offseason, and now likes to be known as more than just a scorer.
“I’ve tried to improve that greatly,” Steven said. “Coach has helped me a lot with my defense and getting it up to the level of varsity. I’ve been taking more pride in my defense — stopping guys and keeping them in front of you.”
His offense is still his strongest attribute, though.
He can create shots for himself, finish with both hands and has solid court vision, which has helped him develop into one of Richland’s best passers.
“We talk about it a lot,” Earl Streufert said. “He is a guy that makes basketball plays on both ends of the floor. He is his harshest critic. He puts a lot of pressure on himself, but he always seems to show up in the big games for us.”
And everyone connected to the Richland High program hopes that adage holds true for three big games this weekend in Tacoma.
w Craig Craker: 582-1509; email@example.com