The Toledo Indian basketball team returned from WIAA State Basketball Championships in Yakima with a 6th place trophy after dropping a 54-39 contest to Cedar Park Christian of Bothell on Saturday morning.
"We know we can compete with anyone out there and that when they play us they are going to get our best shot," said student Grant McEwen. "The young guys have stepped up tremendously and I couldn't be more proud of them."
The young Indians entered the final field of eight after a thrilling 50-40 victory over University Prep in Longview last Friday. In the following round, Toledo met tall, lanky Seattle Academy and faltered in a 46-26 drubbing in the Yakima Valley Sundome on Thursday morning. The Tribe battled what seemed like a closed basket for much of the game along with the tall, long armed defenders of SA.
Teams that have success against Toledo are usually the ones that can limit the scoring of 5'8" point guard Brent Wood. When Toledo took a quick 9-5 lead, Wood had already scored all five of his points in the game. Connor Vermilyea was the leading scorer for the Indians, but two of his buckets came late in the game when the outcome was no longer in doubt.
On Thursday, Toledo came back with a great win 45-33 victory over Cascade Christian. During this game Brent Wood was able to break free for 21 points while Grant McEwen added 14. The always-small Indian team won a rare rebounding battle 33-22 with some tenacious attacks on the boards. McEwen and Forrest Wallace each grabbed eight rebounds to lead the team.
Screening is a key part of their strategy to break Wood open, but they had to guess on how to set them as Toledo was called for eight illegal screens during the game.
"The ref basically told us to fall over when a player was getting through," said McEwen when asked about the apparent subtle interpretation in what is a staple of the Indian offense. "I really don't know. It was confusing and frustrating for everyone."
It was one more thing the boys could overcome during this winning season.
On Saturday morning, Toledo met a much larger Cedar Park Christian team that was bent on stopping Wood. Like most teams, they knew little about Wood and he burned them early. Once again though, Wood was limited to the 12 quick points and the swift start fizzled as the Indians had trouble scoring the rest of the game.
Particularly bad was when the Indians scored just 5 points in the second quarter and went to halftime with a 31-21 deficit. Late in the third, the Indians fought back to single digits, but could not get over the mountain.
In the end, Toledo claimed the 6th place trophy and finished the season with an 18-9 record. What is more important is that they finished the season 7-2 in the final stretch of important games. This would be a good time to say that a great season often ends with a loss.
"The fact that we took sixth and got a trophy was just a little something we could do for our amazing fan support," said McEwen. "The band and cheerleaders do such an outstanding job and the town people that come support us is astounding. The amount of pride our town has in us is unique and special and I'm just happy to be a part of it."
"It felt great to be able to enjoy the whole experience with my teammates and my coaches," said senior Kreed Askin who missed last year's tournament run because he was concentrating on his grades.
It is a traditional trip for Toledo, who has been to state 16 times since 1988.
They will return nine of eleven players, but will be dropping into the 2B Central League next year which produced a state champion in Morton/White Pass and a sixth place team in Mossyrock.
"I imagine that we all want to get back next year and that's what we will be striving for through the off season," said Junior Forrest Wallace. "Hopefully I'm speaking for the whole team when I say that we want to get to Spokane next year."
Note...Look for a senior spotlight article on Senior Kreed Askin next week.