Sports

"Olympic’s boys have had one taste of the postseason, and now the Trojans are looking for another playoff payoff"

"Forget sugarplums, whatever they are. The visions dancing in the heads of the Olympic High School boys basketball team this Christmas season all swirl around the West Central District tournament.“We got a taste of the playoffs last year, and we liked it,” said third-year coach Robert Polk. “We remember how much fun it was. And we want to go back.”The district playoffs are the motivation. Ken Waldo will have to be the motor.Polk’s team isn’t long on varsity experience. But it does have one proven commodity and one legitimate force in the 6-foot-5 Waldo — the only starter returning from last year’s No. 2 Class 4A district qualifier out of the Olympic League.“We definitely want to play an inside-out game,” said Polk, alluding to the fact that any ball destined for the basket is probably going to be touched by Waldo at some point on its journey. “Kenneth is the key to our team. He’s very quick and agile for a bigger guy, and he’s a good athlete.”He apparently also has very little regard for his own lanky carcass. He racks up enough dives in a season to qualify for the swim team, and can and does lope the length of the floor in just a few enthusiastic strides.Last year, he was the perfect complement to the finesse of Drew Mader and the Trojans’ mob of perimeter shooters.This year, he’s the meal ticket for a playoff-hungry team.“It’s no secret we have to build around Kenneth,” Polk said.And around those playoff memories. The Trojans have about as sweet a pack of memories as any two-and-out tournament team could have, mainly from their playoff opener at fifth-ranked Bethel in which they played some of their best ball of the season in a packed, loud, thoroughly electric gym.If Olympic is to return to Bethel, or its Y2K equivalent, Polk needs several things to happen. The first is for Waldo not to injure himself flinging his body onto the floor, through a wall or into the rafters after a rebound or loose ball.Then he needs seniors Hugh Willa (a varsity-JV splitter last year), Matt Fry (who missed last year with an injury) and 6-4 Jordan Reese to step into the frontcourt spots filled last year by Mader and Matt Coombe. Scott Tonge, another senior with limited varsity experience, will add another active presence when he returns from a broken hand after Christmas.And then he needs the backcourt to turn the play of last year’s group up a notch or two. The Trojans’ 1998-99 perimeter people played good defense, scored sporadically and sometimes seemed less than preoccupied with supplying Mader, their best player, with the ball.This year’s backcourt picture is clouded by the mysterious football injury of senior Harold Powell, whose ballhandling, penetration and quickness on defense could be a real boon. Powell and Polk both said the ankle he tweaked midway through the season hasn’t healed and has defied diagnosis.“We might get him back after Christmas, and we might not get him back at all,” Polk said.In the interim — or, worst-case scenario, for the season — the Trojans have John Alguard, another splitter as a junior, and Austin Hendershot, a late-season varsity promotee, along with several promising newcomers.The most intriguing of those probably is sophomore Geoff Kelstrup, who erupted for 40-plus points a couple of times last year at Fairview Junior High.“He’s a good shooter, but he’s also got a knack for finding a way to get the ball inside,” Polk said of Kelstrup. “He wants to be a good basketball player, and he’s worked hard on his defense.”In Troy’s season-opening win over Lakes, Hendershot showed some leadership and playmaking ability, and Alguard brings maturity and an ability to slash to the basket.Senior Mike Slinger and juniors Ernie Parsons and Casey Manchester add quickness and depth in the backcourt.How it all fits together will take a while to sort out — especially given the status of Powell’s tender ankle.“We have as much chance as anybody (to qualify for districts),” Polk said. “It’s my first senior group I’ve had since they were sophomores, and I’m excited to see how we’re going to get it done.”"

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