At least that's been the message from third-year coach Steve Call this season.
Thursday night against Kamiak in the Warriors' third Wesco 4A South game of the season, they edged toward the summit -- despite losing footing briefly in the second half -- with a 61-57 victory in front of the home fans.
"Our whole mentality has been this visual imagery of climbing the mountain," Call said. "District and hopefully beyond is the peak for us."
The Warriors never trailed, riding 6-foot-6 post Travis Bakken, who scored 21 points and pulled down 11 rebounds to pace a team that returned just three varsity players from a year ago.
However, Kamiak's Tyler Nielsen, who had 14 points, hit the third of his four 3s with 3:12 to go in the game to tie the score at 53-53 and place that climb up the mountain in doubt. On the previous possession, Bakken was called for an intentional foul, which lead to a pair of Jonathan Lee free throws.
The Warriors senior lost his cool and for a moment it looked like the Knights would seize the game, but Bakken regained composure and all but put the game away with a drop step in the lane a possession later, capping the momentum shift with a conventional three-point play with 2:44 to go in the game.
"I think that kind of bounced me back a little bit," Bakken said.
Kamiak had chances down the stretch, but made just one of six free throws in the game's final 2:10, including missing the front end of a pair of one-and-one chances.
"Free throws have been killing us," Kamiak coach Cory West said of the Knights (2-2 league, 3-5 overall), who shot 10-for-20 from the line. "If we knock down half of those it's a completely different game."
The Warriors jumped to an early lead and sealed the game the same way: feeding the 6-foot-6 Bakken inside.
"Our emphasis was to pound the ball inside, which worked in the first quarter and the last three minutes of the game," Call said. "I loved our composure."
The Warriors (2-1, 3-4) jumped out to their biggest lead of the game on a transition bucket by Brady Edwards that gave them a 21-7 edge with 1:53 to go in the first quarter.
"Our guys were getting deflated," West said. "We've got to be more resilient. I have to teach them to be resilient and bounce back even if we aren't making shots."
The one exception to that was Kamiak senior Drew Blacksmith. The guard scored the first two baskets of the second quarter and hit a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer, which seemed to show the rest of his team to believe that the game could be theirs. Blacksmith lead Kamiak with 20 points.
"Blacksmith had a phenomenal game," the Warriors coach said. "He's a good shooter. He got in the paint well. Good body control."
Kamiak fronted Bakken in the third quarter, holding him scoreless by mostly denying him the ball. But the Warriors maintained control of the game with patient ball movement and it showed up on the scoresheet in the form of 22 assists. Warriors senior guard Tate Budnick had no points but dished out a game-high 10 assists.
The game was a battle for what might be the right to challenge Jackson at the top of Wesco 4A South. The Warriors' only league loss was to the undefeated Timberwolves, who earlier this week captured the prestigious MaxPreps tournament championship in California. With such a young team, Call knows the Warriors have some catching up to the senior-laden Timberwolves, but they hope to close the gap and Thursday's effort was a step in the right direction.
"We tried to learn as much as we could from (playing) them," Call said. "We're going to be off to a good start for awhile."
Meanwhile, Kamiak tumbles a bit down the league standings and it doesn't get any easier as the Knights host Jackson on Saturday night.
At Edmonds-Woodway H.S.
Kamiak 12 18 9 18 -- 57
Edmonds-Woodway 21 15 10 15 -- 61
Kamiak--Wiley 0, Nielsen 14, Lord 3, Hussein 0, Merkley 0, Anas 0, Lee 2, Gray 0, Shubert 7, Grayson 0, Blacksmith 20, Mand 0, Patrick 0, Belk 10. Edmonds-Woodway--Holland 0, Rice 7, Edwards 5, Budnick 0, Polovina 5, Lebesis 7, Smarr 14, Bakken 21, Okereke 2. 3-Point Goals-- Nielsen 4, Smarr 2, Blacksmith 2, Edwards 1, Lord 1, Rice 1. Records Kamiak (2-2 league, 3-5 overall), Edmonds-Woodway (2-1, 3-4)
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