Grizzlies suprising everybody — but themselves

Glacier Peak’s boys basketball team seems to be surprising everybody this season.

Except themselves.

Picked last in The Herald’s preseason coaches poll, Glacier Peak has continued its recent success despite returning just two players who played significant varsity minutes last season.

“To me, I’d watched these kids play for three or four years so I think you know what you have,” Glacier Peak head coach Brian Hunter said. “I’m not surprised at what we’ve done, but I’m definitely pleased with what we’ve done. It’s one thing to think you can do it. It’s another to go and actually do it.”

Hunter and the Grizzlies have done it with an inexperienced team with Trey Chambers and Ty Kjellesvik as the two with varsity experience.

Chambers, Kjellesvik and the rest of the team quickly used the preseason poll to come together and prove their doubters wrong.

“I think it was a lot of motivation,” Chambers said. “I know for me, I really like to win. I don’t like losing. And seeing us put last meant we would’ve had to lose a lot of games and that didn’t settle well with me. It was a big motivation for the whole team to go out and win as many games as we possibly could.”

Glacier Peak responded winning eight of its first nine games, and at 7-2 in league and 12-4 overall, finds itself in second place in a highly-competitive Wesco 3A South.

The Grizzlies accomplished the feat with several players called upon to replace last season’s five starters, including Wesco 3A South Player of the Year Zach Pederson.

“I thought we had kids that, although they weren’t called upon to play a lot last year, could be strong players this year,” Hunter said. “They just were behind guys that got the majority of those minutes last year.”

The varsity turnover provided opportunities for seniors Ty Deckwa, Bobby Brooks, Nick Allan and Luke Neill. Those four, as well as others like Brady Southard and Justin Guffey, have stepped up into various roles and helped Glacier Peak continue its run of success.

“Luke Neill has been really solid this year,” Hunter said. “He was our JV point guard for about half the year last year. Brady Southard has battled. He’s a little bit undersized as a post (at 6-foot-4) but he plays bigger and stronger. Nick Allen’s had a solid year for us, giving us some length out there, which you need. And then Bobby Brooks has been good, bringing energy and some defensive presence. Justin Guffey’s the same way.

“I think really it’s been a collective group of guys.”

Also helpful is having Chambers, who has gone from being the Grizzlies sixth man a season ago, to a go-to scorer this year.

The senior also is looked to for leadership, being one of the few Glacier Peak players with big-game experience.

“You do need somebody, generally, that has something, that has experienced some high-level competition,” Hunter said. “… I think we were pretty confident in what we were going to get from Trey and I think the kids rely on him a little bit and look to him a little bit just because he really is a true competitor.”

Chambers, who plays on a select team and used the opportunity to work on becoming a stronger scorer in the offseason, really wants to be an example to the younger, inexperienced players.

“Not a lot of them have the experience,” Chambers said. “I tried to come out here and just show them what it was like to be on a (varsity) team. I was part of team that had a lot of talent and I know what it’s like to work hard and really have to fight for your spot.”

Southard said it’s quite a bit different moving up from the junior varsity level to the varsity ranks.

“It’s really big,” Southard said. “They’re running a lot more. It’s way tougher. Everyone’s way stronger.”

The junior said the Glacier Peak coaches do a good job of keeping the Grizzlies prepared and successful. Like his coach, Southard isn’t surprised by Glacier Peak’s strong season.

“We knew that we could do what we’ve done so far and we’re going to try to keep it going,” Southard said.

That determination has helped Glacier Peak be successful in a league that features all five teams with winning overall records. The competition drives teams to compete at their best on a nightly basis, Hunter said.

“If anything it keeps you focused,” the coach said. “You have to play at a high level every night. If you look at our league, I really think the fifth place team can beat the first place team any night. That makes for competitive games.”

The Grizzlies are coming off a 56-42 3A South league loss to Shorecrest on Tuesday. With just three games to play in the regular season — including tonight’s Senior Night game against Meadowdale — Glacier Peak is hoping to end its losing streak at one.

“These last three games are really big for us,” Chambers said. “We adopted a new motto this year: ‘We never lose two games in a row.’ So you never get on a bad streak. We’re going to go out and try to win the rest of these games.”

With seven seniors, Glacier Peak will have a lot of new faces next season, too. Hunter thinks they’ll be able to weather the storm of graduation once again.

“We seem to keep this pattern of replacing a lot of guys going on,” Hunter said. “Again, our JVs are having a great year this year. I wouldn’t expect anything to change. We do have some players coming back next year that will have had some experience.

“But yeah, there’ll be some similarities next year to this year too. Definitely more of the same.”

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