A year ago the Tahoma boys basketball team won its first league championship in school history but the Bears already learned how hard it is to repeat.
With a tough overtime loss to Kentwood Dec. 5 at home, Tahoma seniors DeShon Williams, Coleman Wooten and Julian Sumler know the Bears have a target on their backs.
“We can’t take breaks,” Williams said the next afternoon during practice. “We’re going to get every team’s best shot being league champs.”
Sumler said second-year head coach Brian Davis explained to them it is harder to repeat than win the South Puget Sound League North division the first time.
“Everyone is trying to knock us off the mountain,” Sumler said. “I feel like everyone’s coming at us.”
What Tahoma does have in its favor is a team loaded with experience in nine seniors on the roster, Wooten pointed out.
Davis noted that as a strength in his team.
“Having a group of nine seniors is a special deal,” Davis said. “It will be fun to watch our growth this year.”
They’re going to need that experience to make a deeper run in the playoffs this year — the Bears fell in the West Central District tournament in February. After getting off to a quick start in the district tournament at home against Olympia, Tahoma’s boys lost two straight to miss state. The Bears have not played in the state tournament since 1997. They finished the 2013 campaign 13-3 in league, 17-7 overall.
“It’s a whole different environment (in the post-season),” Wooten said. “Everybody is out there fighting for their lives.”
Williams said Tahoma’s players learned some important lessons at the end of last season.
“Now that we know what we need to do to get there, we need to come out with intensity in practice and games and build off that success,” Williams said.
Wooted added that the team played summer ball and fall league together as well as extra workouts off the court which should help them play better.
There’s a level of bonding which happened thanks to those games and workouts which could make a difference.
“All of us have been on Tahoma for the past several years,” Sumler said. “We’ve all grown up together, so, that helps with chemistry on the court. We can laugh. We’re pretty relaxed.”
Wooten said that chemistry Sumler noted could be a strength for Tahoma this season.
“Just how close we are,” Wooten said. “We’re all brothers — very, very tight knit.”
While the trio mentioned the idea of going further in the playoffs this season, they keep their sights on what they can do daily to prepare, on taking it one game at a time.
That philosophy helped Tahoma focus on Kent-Meridian Dec. 7. The Bears bounced back after the loss to the Conquerors to beat the Royals 62-56 at Tahoma.
Next up for Tahoma was Auburn Riverside on the road Tuesday night.
Wooten explained that the focus is on the immediate task at hand and there are no specifically stated long-term goals.
“Just getting better every day,” Williams said. “And the league championships and playoffs will be a byproduct of being better than we were yesterday.”