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Warriors' state of mind: Four more games
"CHICO - In 1972, Nixon had Four More Years.The King's West High School girls basketball team have a slogan of their own, as they go campaigning to Spokane:Four more games.We really think we can be playing on Saturday, says senior Bekah Walker of the Warriors' trip to the state Class B championship tournament, which begins today at the Spokane Arena. We have higher goals and expectations this year than we had last year.The teams that haven't been eliminated by Saturday play in the trophy games. Even though King's West is making its fifth state trip in the last six years, it never has played a game on trophy day.The goals and expectations are for this to be a weekend of firsts for the Warriors.It'd be a great way to go out, says 10-year veteran coach Tom Oliver, referring both to the end of this team's run, which has resulted in a 20-4 record headed into state, and the end of his own tenure at King's West. We've never played a Saturday game at state before, and it would be a great thing for our seniors and our school.The first obstacle between King's West and that trophy-day contest is today's first-round opponent, LaCrosse-Washtucna (19-7), who the Warriors meet at 1:30 p.m.From there, if all goes well, the tournament will be a whirlwind of four games in four days. Saturday evening's championship game is in the realm of possibility, but the Warriors say they'd be perfectly happy with one of the Saturday afternoon games.If we win something (a trophy), that's a bonus, says senior Natasha Beals, one of four seniors - along with Walker, center Beth Grams and point guard Marica Bulette - who'll be closing out their King's West careers this weekend. We'd like to get to Saturday. We've accomplished all the other goals we've had this season, and I'm confident that our team can do it.The most recent goal the Warriors realized was to win their first-ever Tri-District tournament championship, a milestone they passed last Saturday with a 57-42 victory over Mt. Vernon Christian in the Tri-District title game at Seattle's Ingraham High School. It was the Hurricanes' first loss after 21 straight victories this season.That win springboarded a team that already surged through the Sea-Tac League without a defeat in either its division on its championship tournament. It adds another layer of confidence for a team that faces its most daunting task this weekend.It's very helpful, Grams grins, referring to the boost winning the district title gives the Warriors' psyche. It's a real confidence-builder. I don't feel any pressure now (about state). I'm confident in what my team can do.It's given us a new level of confidence, added Walker, a four-year varsity player and the team's leading scorer this season. Last year we were a junior-dominated team and we went (to state) to have fun and see what we could do. This year we know we're capable of doing well there.King's West broke out of a 28-all halftime deadlock and outscored Mt. Vernon Christian 29-14 in the second half of last Saturday's Tri-District finale. They held the Hurricanes without a field goal in the entire fourth quarter, their defensive play allowing them to win convincingly despite playing less than their best game on offense.I think our conditioning paid off, Oliver said. I was looking at the (MVC) players and they looked awful tired in the second half.After the current school year, King's West will eliminate Oliver's position as athletic director and he'll move on. He calls the situation this weekend bittersweet, but said his team has handled it well.The seniors have shown a lot of leadership, setting the tone, he says. For his part, he's tried to keep that tone positive. You use whatever you can to motivate your team. Instead of being negative, I've tried to make it sort of a rallying point.The players say the issue of Oliver's impending exit from the program has been felt, if not discussed at length, by them all.It was nice giving him his first district No. 1, Bulette said, but it would be even better if we could win something for him at state. He deserves it.We don't really talk about it, Bulette adds, but it's in all our hearts and minds.It's nice to know we're ending over there, Walker says, adding that they'll be trying to stretch their tournament experience out as long as they can. We know we get to spend six days together over there.Six days and, hopefully, four more games. "