SELAH, Wash. — All you really need to know about Selah’s 80-66 drubbing of Prosser — in a showdown of two teams expected to be in the hunt for the CWAC boys basketball title — is that it really wasn’t even as close as the final score might indicate.
And even the final score looks like something of a beatdown.
OK, this is worth knowing, too: The Vikings expected the game to go just that way.
Asked if he expected that kind of comfortable victory, sophomore Zakery Donato’s response was succinct.
Even one this one-sided?
Freshman Elijah Pepper — perhaps the most visible piece of the Vikings’ youth movement, alongside Donato and fellow freshman Calvin Herting — had a simple explanation for how and why Selah (3-1 CWAC, 4-2 overall) was able to jump on the Mustangs (1-3, 1-3).
“I think we hustled a lot more than they did. We outworked them to start the game,” said Pepper, whose 19 points, four assists and three steals were a big part of the process.
Donato added 15 points and a team-high five assists and Herting scored all seven of his points in the first half, which ended with Selah in front 40-25. After Donato and Pepper combined for 18 of the Vikings’ 25 third-quarter points, the lead was 27, the issue decided.
But for all of that young Selah talent, an even bigger reason for Selah’s success is how quickly they’ve been accepted by — welcomed by, in fact — their older teammates.
“It’s called hunger. Being hungry — especially the three seniors,” coach Tim Garza said of Montana Blehm, Dustin Yates and Vance Wood, who combined for 27 points. “They went through some struggles, through the years of just trying to get over that hump of being in the top six (in the CWAC).
“They want to change that, and that’s what’s so nice with these young guys coming in, and the older guys wanting it so bad. They just mesh really well.”
The new trio — including Donato, who missed last season with an injury — played with the older players all summer long, so they’ve had time to fit into the system. Many is the team whose older players don’t open up to first-year players, but Pepper said at no time did he ever sense anything like that.
“I felt like the coach really tried to engrain us into the game,” he said. “And a lot of the players just accepted us, how we played.”
“When you have a new system and a new philosophy,” said Garza, who’s in his first year at Selah after moving over from La Salle, “it’s all about chemistry and team. If you can get that to happen sooner than later, then obviously we’re headed in the right direction.”
Prosser is still trying to put all its pieces together after the Mustangs’ state-title football run, but the pieces are all there — starting with Nate Brown.
In the first half, the 6-foot-5 junior played almost passively, not demanding the ball — despite being so clearly capable with it in his hands. When he finally began asserting himself in the second half, though, he was something to see, as was his stat-line: 24 points on 9-for-13 shooting, nine rebounds (one fewer than 6-9 teammate Scott Blakney), six steals and a game-high seven assists.
As a team, though, Selah’s passing was a difference-maker. The Vikings had 19 assists, contributed by seven different players.
“Sharing the basketball,” Garza said, “is what makes you successful in the CWAC. You may have to pass up that good shot for a better shot. And they’re buying into it.”
PROSSER — Kasen Blair 15, Hatfield 0, Nate Brown 24, Cruz 0, Scott Blakney 15, Bolt 0, Flores 0, Michael Kernan 10, Rusk 2. Totals 25-59 13-16 66.
SELAH — Zakery Donato 15, Wood 7, Montana Blehm 11, Yates 9, Elijah Pepper 19, Herting 7, Quincy 5, Morford 2, Baldoz 1, Dietrich 4. Totals 30-55 14-18 80.
Prosser 8 17 13 28 — 66
Selah 15 25 25 15 — 80
3-point goals: Prosser 3-15 (Blair 2-8, Brown 1-2), Selah 6-18 (Donato 2-2, Wood 1-1, Quincy 1-2, Herting 1-4, Pepper 1-7). Rebounds: Prosser 29 (Blakney 10, Brown 9), Selah 30 (Blehm 8, Wood 5). Fouls: Prosser 18, Selah 14. Fouled out: none. Turnovers: Prosser 24, Selah 25. Assists: Prosser 14 (Brown 7), Selah 19 (Donato 5, Pepper 4, Herting 3).