SPOKANE, Wash. — Just how cohesive this Yakama Tribal boys team was this season can be explained in one simple gesture Saturday morning at the Spokane Arena.
As the players prepared to face Muckleshoot Tribal for fourth and sixth place in the Class 1B state tournament, they came to the coaches and said they had a new starting lineup for the game — the five seniors on the roster.
So instead of the usual rotation, Star Sun Billy, Sandy Lomakema, Jason Axtell, Jaryn Valerio and Christian Vigil took the floor to start what would become a 49-40 victory for the Eagles, who finished 17-8.
“It was all about the kids today,” coach Greg Strom said. “We told the kids, ‘It’s up to you. How bad do you want it?’
“They wanted to start all seniors. That shows how much they care about each other.”
Although it took Yakama Tribal a while to get going after the 9 a.m. tipoff, defense ruled the day as the Eagles limited its opponent to single digits in each of the final three quarters in outscoring them 39-24. MT was also held to 27-percent shooting (6 of 22) in the second half.
Axtell led a balanced offensive attack with 14 points. He was the lone double-figures scorer for YT but Bryan and Isiah Strom both scored eight points.
MUCKLESHOOT TRIBAL — Dontae Johnson 13, Jamenski 3, Thompson 4, Kash Nichols 11, D. Nichols 5, James 0, J. Bennett 3, Courville 1, C. Bennett 0.
YAKAMA TRIBAL — Billy 3, Lomakema 0, Jason Axtell 14, Valerio 4, Vigil 5, Bryce Strom 5, Bryan Strom 8, Pastrana 3, Eagleheart 0, I. Strom 8, J. Strom 3.
Muckleshoot Tribal 16 9 8 7 — 40
Yakama Tribal 10 17 13 9 — 49
Highlights: Bryce Strom (YT) 6 reb; Noah Pastrana (YT) 5 reb; Johnson (MT) 12 reb.