King's West clinches another division title

"Coach Tom Oliver's King's West girls basketball team has the week off from games this week, by virtue of its Sea-Tac B League South Division championship.Oliver can use the time to get over his amazement.The biggest surprise to me is 16-3, Oliver said of the Warriors' won-lost record after Thursday night's 49-24 victory over Seattle Lutheran at Gundy Hall, the regular-season finale for both teams. If you'd told me that at the beginning of the season, I probably would've just laughed at you.The Warriors already had clinched the South Division title earlier in the week with a win over Pacific Christian. That means they forego the early rounds of the league tournament and move right into the championship game against Bush, to be played at Bush School in Seattle on Saturday, Feb. 12 at 6:30 p.m.Getting the bye to the title game, Oliver said, is huge. Now if we can beat Bush, which we're very capable of, we'll have a lot easier road at the Tri-District.I don't even want to use the 'S' word yet, he said, referring to the state Class B tournament at the end of this month, but a lot depends on getting the right draw (into the district tourney). Beating Bush puts us in a lot better situation.So, we've got to win Saturday.To be talking about the state tournament - use the S word - would've been a huge leap of faith only a couple of months ago for Oliver. He came into the season having to replace more than 60 points a game that graduated from last year's 24-6 team that claimed the school's first-ever state tournament victory.What he had, after his lone returning starter and only senior, forward Kasey Treger, was a group of unproven backups. And the situation was made worse with the unexpected losses of junior guard Mari McKinstry, who transferred to and is starring at North Kitsap, and sophomore forward Lindsey Redfern, lost in the second game of the season with a separated shoulder.Our group of juniors - Bekah Walker, Beth Grams, Marica Bulette - didn't get any playing time last year, except for (transfer) Natasha Beals, Oliver said. But they're making the most of their opportunity this year.Thursday's win over the visiting Saints was typical of the way the Warriors have confounded Oliver by winning the school's sixth straight division championship.Sometimes we're not to pretty, but we find ways to get it done with defense and transition, he said.King's West held the Saints to just two points in both the first and fourth quarters, and just eight in the entire second half. When their halfcourt offense foundered early, they turned to steals and fast breaks to pull out to a 25-16 halftime lead and put the game away in the second half.Grams, a 6-foot-1 junior in her first year as a starter, scored eight of her game-high 12 points in the third quarter to help KW extend its lead to 37-22.The difference was the third quarter, said Oliver, referring to the shot of halfcourt offense Grams provided.This was pretty much the way we've been all season, he pointed out. Norm (assistant coach Goldstein) and I will be on the bench, feeling like we're ahead by two or four, and we'll look at the scoreboard and be up 14 or 15.Surprise. Again. With a 16-3 record, Oliver admitted there have been a lot of surprises.They really believe in themselves, I guess more than I did, he said. But I'm a believer now.Bulette added 10 points, Walker and Treger nine each for the Warriors Thursday night. No Seattle Lutheran player managed better than Ilana Torchinova's six.With another division title under his belt, Oliver can afford something he might not have budgeted for back in December, when turnouts began - optimism. The S word is a welcome, unexpected part of his vocabulary.And with only Treger graduating in the spring, that optimism can be long-range.If anybody was going to get us, he said, I would've thought this would've been the year. Because we're going to be a very good team next year.To the Warriors' credit, they'll have to go some just to be as good as they've been this year."

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