Something to shoot for

It’s easy to be envious of the Meadowdale High School boys basketball team.

The unusually consistent program guided by head coach Chad McGuire earned 50 victories the past three seasons — an average of nearly 17 per season — and placed no lower than fourth in the Western Conference South Division.

But when it comes to looking at how Meadowdale’s past three promising runs ended, the squad’s experiences seem much less desirable.

Starting with the 2004-2005 season, the Mavericks have lost three consecutive winner-to-state, loser-out games, including last season’s two-point overtime defeat against Squalicum in the Class 3A District 1 tournament.

The latter jarring defeat helped inspire the team to return even stronger this winter.

“The way we ended last year was a heartbreaking loss, and I knew I didn’t want to go through that my senior year. That motivated me more than anything right there,” said guard Paul Werner.

The season-ending defeat against Squalicum left Meadowdale with a clear mission for the 2007-2008 season.

“You have that feeling where you want to get over the hump,” said Mavericks post Matt Gorman.

Based on how well Meadowdale has played so far — its overall record is 6-1 following a Friday victory over Shorecrest — the balanced, unselfish Mavericks have a great chance to advance to break though the district-tourney barrier.

“We’ve had a successful program,” said coach McGuire, “and just to be in that (winner-to-state, loser-out game) position is something to be proud of. Sure, you’d like to win them.”

“But I think we’ve got other things motivating us now,” McGuire added. “We want to reach our potential as a team.”

Meadowdale has exciting potential thanks to some key strengths, including depth, scoring balance and height.

McGuire regularly rotates nine players into the game and said he feels comfortable using all 12 guys on the roster. Besides sharing minutes, the Mavericks share the ball and rely on a variety of scoring options. Six players average at least 7.0 points per game, led by Gorman (11.2), Werner (10.8) and 6-foot-9 senior post Evan Matteson (11.0)

“It’s hard to take away what we do,” McGuire said, “because instead of having one or two people who score, we have five guys on the floor who can score.”

Matteson, Gorman (a 6-3 University of Washington baseball recruit) and 6-6 sophomore Connor Hamlett (7.4 ppg) give Meadowdale one of the tallest, most productive frontcourt trios in the area.

And these aren’t stereotypical back-to-the-basket, plodding posts. All of the Mavericks know the game and look for open teammates.

“They don’t necessarily beat you with athleticism but they are very cerebral and they pass the ball very well. They’re very disciplined that way,” said Mariner coach Dexter Griffen.

Mariner rallied in the fourth quarter Dec. 18 to beat Meadowdale 58-51, the Mavericks’ first loss of the season. Meadowdale gets another chance against the Marauders Jan. 22 in Lynnwood.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks have already earned impressive victories over South rival Edmonds-Woodway (5-2) and highly touted non-conference foe Inglemoor.

Meadowdale is rolling despite having to replace players who accounted for nearly 70 percent of the team’s 2006-2007 scoring. McGuire said much of the credit goes to players like Matteson and Werner, who didn’t play a ton as juniors but improved significantly.

Said McGuire, “I don’t know two guys in our program or in the area that worked harder in the offseason.”

Now Meadowdale wants to make sure its next offseason doesn’t start until after the state tournament.

Contact Herald Writer Mike Cane at mcane@heraldnet.com. For more high school sports news, check out the prep sports blog Double Team at www.heraldnet.com/doubleteam.

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