Sports

Klahowya hits 'rock bottom' in loss

Coach Scott McMinds was sitting in his wheelchair next to Klahowya’s bus in the parking lot outside of North Mason High School’s gym.

Temperatures had dipped below freezing, but McMinds was boiling inside.

His boys basketball team, the one he had such affection and high hopes for at the start of the season, was unraveling.

“You don’t have a chance when you’ve only got two guys out there playing hard and three who aren’t,” McMinds said after the Eagles’ discouraging 58-43 Nisqually League loss on Tuesday, Jan. 22.

McMinds even had a player defect during the middle of the game. Senior Nick Weatherly got off the bench after a timeout with 3:44 left, pulled his jersey over his head and walked out the gym door.

“We’ve got a cancer spreading on this team,” McMinds said. “It’s tough enough dealing with X’s and O’s problems. When you’ve got personnel problems to go along with it, it makes it hard to be successful on the court.”

McMinds, the third-year coach, gathered his team following the bus ride back to Klahowya.

“We had a little meeting,” McMinds said when contacted at the school the day after the North Mason loss. “We regrouped and I told them, ‘Think about if you really want to be here. If you do, show up (Wednesday) and work hard and get ready to get back after it.”

McMinds called this “a special group,” at the start of the season. He’s been with Klahowya’s six seniors for six years, coaching them as eighth graders. He’s watched them grow as citizens and basketball players.

Now, he’s watched dissension tear this tight-knit group apart. And it’s not easy on the young coach.

“It really is tough,” McMinds said. “That’s what we talked about. I hated to see it come to this and I hated it more for them. They’ve come so far and worked so hard. To stop short of what their goals are and to sell themselves short, it’s a shame.

“I did have high hopes. They had high hopes. It’s taken a turn for the worse, but don’t count us out yet. ... Sometimes you need to hit rock bottom before you can bounce back.”

The Eagles (1-6 league, 5-8 overall) need to finish among the top six Class 2A schools in the Nisqually to earn a berth in the West Central District Tournament. After playing No. 3-ranked Steilacoom at home on Friday, Jan. 25, the Eagles have five games left.

Where did it all go wrong?

The Eagles enjoyed some early success this season, but instead of hungering for more success, complacency set it, McMinds said.

“I don’t think they’ve been working as hard they could at practices. They haven’t been pushing each other,” he said, “and you can’t expect to play with game intensity when they haven’t practiced with game intensity.

“I think January has just taken the wind out of their sails,” the coach said. “We had momentum. We had some confidence. But a close loss here, a close loss there, it’s really deflated them. The frustration and attitudes really came to a head (on Tuesday) ... and that’s something we just can’t have.”

If he has to pull up sophomores from the junior varsity to get the effort, McMinds said he will.

“I told our guys, ‘Hey, I’m going to be around next year and the seniors are not,’” McMinds said. “If they’re checking out already, I’ll check some new kids in.”

Notes: Senior Jordan Coursey (11 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists) did his best to provide some spark for the Eagles against North Mason. ... Junior Dusty Rasmussen turned an ankle late in the game and was questionable for the Steilacoom game. ... In 16 second-quarter possessions, the Eagles scored one field goal, turned it over six times and had just one offensive rebound.

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