Sports

Tradition helps carry King's West girls to brink of league title

"Last year, when Marica Bulette, Beth Grams and Bekah Walker were subs on the King's West girls basketball team, Tradition sat on the bench with them.This year they're on the court, playing the bulk of the minutes. But they understand that Tradition still is over there, riding the pine. They share the credit for this year's success with it.We expected to go far this year, says Bulette, the elfin point guard. Because of the tradition here, we have to.It must be like Bulette says: You don't not win if you're the Warrior girls.She's part of the nucleus of a team that seemed like a longshot to carry on that tradition, the most recent manifestations of which were last year's 23-5 record, a fourth straight Sea-Tac League championship and the school's first-ever victory in a state Class B tournament game.After those triumphs, Graduation came blowing in like Hurricane Mitch and gutted the King's West roster, leaving in its wake just one starter - Kasey Treger, this year's lone senior - and a group for whom playing time had ranged between slim and none.I have to admit, says the Warriors' veteran coach, Tom Oliver, I looked at this year's team sometimes and wondered how we were going to get it done. I knew we'd do well enough, but I didn't think we'd be able to keep up with last year's pace.While Oliver looked at the glass and saw half empty, the players - the untested understudies who had shared mostly bench time in their prep careers - saw overflowing.It was exciting, because the girls I had worked with and I would be the team, says junior Bekah Walker, whose father, Rick Walker, coaches the King's West boys. We saw this year as our opportunity, our chance to carry on the tradition. It would be up to us.Opportunities had been scarce the past couple years. Behind 6-foot-2 Melissa Wallace, there weren't many minutes for Grams. With Lindsay Friesen popping in 20 points a game, there wasn't much chance for Walker and Treger to develop as scorers. With All-State guard Becka Beard gripping the steering wheel and stomping on the gas, there wasn't much time for Bulette to practice running the offense.But, as Grams - a 6-1 junior with a perma-grin and a knack for offensive rebounds - points out, being second team packed a tremendous payoff.We played against those people every day, she says. I'm glad I skipped a year, because I wouldn't have had a chance to work with Melissa as much otherwise. Playing against them was better competition than any of the other teams we played.Despite the graduation losses, the Warriors were convinced they could carry on the program's winning ways.When we set our goals, everybody was saying, 'league championship,' and I just said, 'OK,' admits Treger, who has a chance to go to her fourth state tourney later this month. I think I would've been surprised to know were were going to do as well as we've done. But it wasn't beyond my expectations, either.Replacing the 60-plus points supplied by the Beard-Friesen-Wallace triumvirate last year probably would've been an unreachable goal for this year's Warriors. So they've leaned more on their defense. While their scoring slipped from the high 60s to about 52 points a game, they choked opponents off with just 35.4.Defense is what carries us, says Walker, who also has blossomed into the team's leading scorer. We played together in spring, in summer and in the fall, and we came in knowing what it would take for us to be successful. We had the right state of mind.We make it happen in different ways, Bulette shrugs. With us, obviously, it's the defense.Oliver marvels, Sometimes it isn't pretty, but they get it done. They continue to exceed expectations.It's been good enough for a 16-3 record, a sixth straight division title and a chance for league championship No. 5 in a row.It'll be nice, Treger smiles, to leave here with a good feeling."

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