SULTAN — Heading into the fourth quarter with an eight-point lead, Sultan looked like it had all the momentum and seemed to be on its way to beating Class 1A powerhouse King’s for the second time this season.
Eight minutes later, King’s walked off the court with a stunning 69-55 victory over the Turks after outscoring them 23-1 in the final quarter of Friday’s Cascade Conference boys basketball game.
How did it happen?
“I wish I had an answer for that,” Sultan head coach Nate Trichler said. “I really believe King’s is a championship-level team and they rose (to) another level. I couldn’t quite figure out anything they were doing differently. It’s just their arms seemed to get a little bit longer and their rebounding a little bit stronger and they denied cuts a little bit harder.
“We got stagnant out there.”
The Turks trailed 36-30 at halftime and gave up the opening basket of the third quarter before going on an 11-0 run to seize control of the game. By the end of the period, Sultan had outscored King’s 24-10 and led 54-46.
“I thought our kids believed,” Trichler said. “That’s why I want to watch the film to see what King’s did. If you watched the team’s body language at the end of the third it looked like their eyes were down, but the fourth quarter came around and they went to a different spot that I don’t know if we’re capable of going — at least at this point.”
King’s played without point guard Noah Bundrant, who missed the game with an illness and it took its toll on the Knights early.
“It was a big adjustment playing without our kind of do-everything point guard and we were a little rattled early,” King’s head coach Rick Skeen said. “I thought that our kids just kept fighting. We have so much respect for Sultan and how tough those kids are. So I thought the fact that our kids kind of stepped up and showed some toughness against what we think is one of tougher groups of kids in the league.
“I was super-proud of them.”
Sultan defeated King’s 55-52 on Dec. 13, handing the Knights their only league loss so far this season. Friday’s victory was less about revenge and more about making the necessary adjustments from the first meeting to the second.
“They exposed some weaknesses for us,” Skeen said. “That’s the fun part of playing (the Turks). They show us where we’re at. We’ve spent the past five or six weeks working on some holes that they exposed and I thought we were a lot better tonight.”
The defense, though good at times, had given up 54 points through three quarters, which was not what Skeen had in mind. But when the Knights needed to clamp down the most, they did holding the Turks to just a free throw in the final stanza.
“On our scouting report we had Seahawks versus Broncos,” Skeen said. “This is the number one scoring offense in our league and we’re the number one scoring defense. We actually said if it gets to the 50s or 60s we could be in trouble. We really wanted to play it in the 30s and 40s. We said we’d rely on our defense and we weren’t happy with 54 points and so we played one really good quarter of defense and we need to put four quarters together moving forward next week.”
The Knights offense exhibited extraordinary balance, having five players finish in double-figure scoring, none of which having more than 12 points. Josh Alexander led the Knights with 12, Brett Jones had 11 and Corey Kispert, Koa Wilkins and David Barhanovich all had 10 points apiece.
Sultan was led by Giovanni Williams, who led all scorers with 16. Deion Bonilla and Joe Schmidt each had 10 for the Turks.
It was the fourth consecutive loss for the Turks after opening the season with an impressive 8-2 record.
Trichler said the losing streak has had as much to do with not doing “the little things” as it has with anything basketball related.
“We had some interesting practices the past couple of days,” he said. “We didn’t talk necessarily about basketball it was more about life, about doing the little things. The kids stopped doing the little things. They kind of thought, ‘oh, we’re good. We can stop doing the little things.’ We started talking about the little things in life, you know, holding the door open for somebody, cleaning up your room and cleaning up the locker room. Why are you leaving a mess for the coaches and where are your shoes when it’s time for practice to start.
“Even when we were winning I could see it coming because the little things were disappearing.”
Despite a fourth-straight defeat, Trichler felt his team turned a corner on Friday getting back to what helped them be successful early in the season.
“This is the best game we’ve played since we played Everett (Dec. 14),” Trichler said. “That was back when we were trying to do the little things still.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Sultan H.S.
King’s–Koa Wilkins 10, Cole Mitchell 4, Brett Jones 11, David Barhanovich 10, Corey Kispert 10, Jacob Storkson 2, Josh Alexander 12, Daniel Fouty 5, Calvin Kispert 5, Joe Stack 0. Sultan– Robbie Rappuhn 0, Joe Schmidt 10, Giovonni Williams 16, Chris Walcott 8, Tyler Morris 2, Bubba Branham 4, Jordan Alexander 3, Copper Beucherie 3, Antonio Rivas 0, Deion Bonilla 10. 3-point goals–Schmidt 2, Walcott 2, Alexander 1, Beucherie 1, Bonilla 1, Mitchell 1, C. Kispert 2, Fouty 1. Records–King’s 8-1 league, 13-2 overall. Sultan 5-4, 8-6.