Feb. 3—ROYAL CITY — A lot of times intense, hard-fought games come down to one or two things that do or don't go right. In Royal's 50-42 boys basketball win over Wahluke on Friday, Knights coach Greg Jenks said some rebounds went Royal's way, and Warrior coach Clayton Buck said some shots didn't go Walluke's way.
Both coaches agreed, though, that it was a close, hard-fought game because of one factor.
"Defense made the difference," Jenks said.
"Our defense was right where I wanted it to be," Buck said
Jenks credited his team for their intensity.
"There were some key points, some big rebounds where it didn't look like we were going to get it, and then one of our players just went after it," he said.
The Warrior defense denied Royal on two or three possessions in the closing minutes of the fourth quarter, got a couple of opportunities for layups, worked the Warrior offense for a couple more good chances, but the shots didn't fall.
"We just didn't close it up," Buck said. "Definitely in the last minutes, we missed some layins that were crucial."
The Warriors too rebounded pretty well, he said.
"Our rebounding could've been a little bit better, but we definitely fought for rebounds. Just those layins at the very end I think were important," Buck said.
The defensive intensity was clear from the first quarter, when Wahluke forced Royal into a 30-second violation. With the Knights bench chanting "defense," Royal converted on defensive stops to take a 12-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.
Royal's Grant Wardenaar blocked a Wahluke shot and the Knights scored on the ensuing possession to go up 25-18. Caden Allred's three-point play pushed Royal's lead to 28-18, but Wahluke fought back to cut the lead to 28-26 at the half.
The game was tied at 32 for a long stretch of the third quarter before Royal pushed the lead to six points, 40-34, by the quarter's end. Royal pushed the lead to 10 again, and Wahluke cut it again on a basket by Jordan Buck. But a couple shots didn't fall for the Warriors, and the game ended with Royal winning 50-42.
The Knights had already won the league title in the east half of the South Central Athletic Conference, Jenks said.
"I'm really proud because League was already wrapped up. Even if we lost, we were still winning League," he said. "To come out and show the pride — we just want to play ball."
Wahluke finished second in the SCAC West, and both teams advance to the district playoffs with home games Thursday.
"Everything starts all over again," Buck said. "I think this time of the year coaches start to switch things up."
By this time teams are familiar with each other, he said, and know what opponents will do.
"I've been around 10 years now, and I've learned that once the playoffs come around, you've got to mix everything up a little bit, add things, tweak things and change things up."
Jenks said two teams will advance to the state tournament from the SCAC this year, and top-ranked Zillah and highly-ranked Wapato are the top two teams in the SCAC East.
"The tournament is going to be an absolute battle," he said.
"It's all brand new now," Buck said. "You lose two and you go home. You keep winning and you keep moving on."
Cheryl Schweizer may be reached via email at email@example.com.