By Mike Cane / Herald Writer
EDMONDS – One could argue that the Edmonds-Woodway boys basketball team is boring.
It averages a modest 50.4 points (ninth in the Western Conference) and it doesn’t shoot all that well.
But the Warriors couldn’t care less if people call their style ugly because there’s nothing ugly about their record.
Edmonds-Woodway, ranked No. 10 in the WashingtonPreps.com Class 4A poll, has grinded its way to an 11-1 mark in the Wesco South Division. The first-place Warriors (14-2 overall) have won 12 straight games and, as the regular season winds down, appear to have a strong chance to return to the state tournament for the first time since 1998.
It starts with defense. The Warriors, who have clinched a district tourney berth and are closing in on the division’s No. 1 seed, use effective man-to-man and matchup-zone schemes to hold opponents to 43.9 points per game (In a matchup zone defenders use man-to-man techniques but stay in a specific area on the court.) They’ve limited teams to 38 points or fewer eight times, including a stunning 22-point lockdown against Meadowdale Jan. 13.
Even when E-W’s shots don’t go in, defense keeps it afloat.
“We have to win on the defensive end right now,” E-W coach Gail Pintler said. “We just don’t have that pure shooter, that pure scorer. On the offensive end we score by just hard work.”
Some teams prefer to avoid contact. They don’t fair well against E-W, which features bruising 6-foot-4 senior post Casey Hamlett (an all-league football player) and Connor Donaldson, a tough 6-5 junior forward.
“We’re physical. You watch a practice and we beat up on each other,” said Hamlett, described by Pintler as a player whose motor never stops.
“We like to play defense,” added Hamlett, who averages 9.3 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds, “so we don’t have to score 100 points, we don’t have to score 80 points. If we score more than you, then we win.”
Said Donaldson (8.2 points and 4.8 rebounds per game), “All we like to do is win. We don’t care who scores.”
E-W also features Eric Greenwood (9.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg), a hyper-athletic 6-6 senior wing who leads the team in scoring, steals and blocks. Along with the other starters – junior point guard James Conti (9.1 ppg) and junior guard Max Ortiz (8.1 ppg) – they form a hard-working group that goes all-out on both ends of the floor.
“They’re very willing to play very hard on defense. It’s an amazing group in the sense that they will do whatever I want them to do at 100 percent,” Pintler said.
Opponents have a lot of energy early in the game but E-W’s defense usually wears them down by the end, said Greenwood, a University of Idaho football recruit.
Meadowdale coach Chad McGuire agreed. This season E-W was 2-0 against Meadowdale (11-5 overall), limiting McGuire’s team to an average of 28 points.
E-W’s ability to stop teams from scoring will be huge in the playoffs, McGuire said: “I think they have as good of a shot to go to state as anybody. Having that kind of defense will really help them.”
E-W players said former coach Rob McMains, who resigned in April, instilled a defensive mentality in them. It’s carried over nicely under Pintler, an experienced coach who last season was a Warriors varsity assistant.
Looking beyond its burly defense, E-W has confident guys who make big plays in big moments. Many of them, like Hamlett and Greenwood, enjoyed great success as members of the state-semifinalist football team. On the basketball court, Hamlett and Conti made last-second shots earlier in the season to beat Mountlake Terrace and Jackson, respectively.
“They step up to the challenge,” Pintler said, “and the best thing about them is that they’re winners. They find a way to win.”