What a season it has been for the Mount Si Wildcat boys’ basketball team.
The Wildcats finished 23-7 in their greatest season as a program since the state title run of 1977. These guys survived all the questions, all the doubts and all the criticisms about them and put together a run that Valley basketball fans will cherish for many years to come.
When this team went 8-12 last year with many of these same players playing key roles as juniors and lost a heartbreaking playoff game against Bellevue for the last spot in the Kingco Tournament, one could easily ask whether this class of 2006 had enough talent, and enough heart, to learn from that disappointment and work harder this year. Well, that question was answered from the get go. When the Valley Record did the team’s preview interviews on a cold Saturday morning back in November at North Bend Elementary, the gym floor shook when the team did drills. It may be an old floor, but you could tell these guys were driven to succeed.
And succeed they did. A 12-0 start, with two overtime wins at the Ellensburg Christmas Tournament, before a heartbreaking loss to Newport at home. After that loss, they fought back, immediately responding, and won their next four, including that heartstopper at home over Sammamish, before losing two straight. One more time, the boys responded to the setback and again won their next four, including a Kingco Tournament title, over those same Totems. They then had a firstfirst-round SeaKing District Tournament win over a Chief Sealth squad that will go down as one of the best comebacks by Mount Si in a long time.
After struggling against the Metro League’s elite, Seattle Prep and O’Dea, the Wildcats beat Sammamish again in another epic finish to clinch their state tournament berth. The team then went to Tacoma last Wednesday knowing they were a huge underdog. After all, their first round opponents from West Valley of Spokane were considered one of the best in the state. But Mount Si did what they had done all year: fight, fight, fight. They made their school and community proud, and beat the beasts from the East. Then last Thursday night, they did the same to Franklin Pierce. Blowouts to Seattle Prep and Lynden in the final two games, though, sent the team to a sixth-place finish. While it may have taken some of the luster off this run, those losses can’t take away what the team has accomplished, which, in itself, was quite special.
This group of eight seniors, Kyle Clearman, Kyle Meuli, Remo Castagno, Kevin Englund, Nick Dietsch, Greg Beckmann, Tylor Littlejohn and Ryan Reilly, will be fondly remembered for leading this run. But let’s point out the contributions of players like Sam Hunston, Blake Hepner and David Wink. While none of these players saw significant playing time this postseason, these underclassmen all got valuable experience that will help them and their team try to repeat this drive next season. They worked hard at practices, and supported their teammates well at games.
And you, the community, noticed. Fans came out in droves as the season went on and many in our Valley made the long drive to Tacoma last week to cheer our boys on. That support was critical to their success throughout the year.