By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
SULTAN — After a tightly contested first half, King’s made a barrage of 3-pointers after halftime, led by guard Caleb Taylor, to pull away from Sultan for a 72-63 Cascade Conference boys basketball victory on Tuesday night.
Taylor lit up the scoresheet all night, finishing with 40 points, but it was his 3-pointer as time expired in the third quarter that sent the Knights on a run that sealed the Turks’ fate.
“Really, Taylor took over the game,” Sultan coach Nate Trichler said. “He was phenomenal tonight. He shot so well. He was the difference-maker. His speed and athleticism kind of dominated this game.”
Taylor’s 3 at the end of the third quarter gave the Knights a 44-36 lead, but they didn’t stop there. David Barhanovich opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer of his own and Taylor added another one on the next possession. Andrew Ayers also made a free-throw line jumper and knocked down a 3 to turned the game, which looked like it might come down to the wire just minutes earlier, into a runaway.
“We have some kids who can shoot the ball,” King’s coach Rick Skeen said. “Part of that is on me, I want to get the ball inside. I thought we had some physical mismatches inside, but Sultan is a bunch of tough kids and they played us physical. We thought that they started packing more and more and that opened the perimeter, and we’ve got kids that can make those shots. It didn’t surprise me.”
Taylor, who was a star receiver on the Knights’ football team, has been boosting his play on the basketball court more and more each game and Tuesday it paid off with a 40-point game.
“This summer Caleb was playing at a super-high level,” Skeen said. “We played Franklin and they played box-and-one on him. That will tell you something.
“Coming out of football is a hard transition. People don’t get that you don’t just take the pads off and all of the sudden (play well). It’s been a little bit of a transition, but he’s starting to get back. We’ve seen it in practice and we’ve seen it in games. He’s put up 20-plus in about three games in a row. And when he’s playing like a basketball player and not a football player, I’d put him up there with (Brock) VandenEkart and (Zach) Taylor as one of the top three or four players in our league.”
VandenEkart, along with teammate Steven Branham, were the reasons that Sultan had a chance Tuesday. Branham had a big first half and VandenEkart a big second half to give the Turks hope, but in the end Taylor was too much to handle.
“Brock is getting better and better as the year has gone on,” Trichler said. “And the fact that he led us. I mean, he was the guy in the huddle talking, saying, ‘guys we can still do this.’ Without his energy we weren’t going to be in the game.”
Many of the points Taylor and his teammates scored were a direct result of Sultan turnovers that were forced by the Knights’ trapping pressure defense.
“They are long, athletic and aggressive,” Trichler said. “I think everyone struggles with that trap. They are really good at it. The way they are able to slow you down and take you out of your offensive set really makes it difficult for you to run your stuff.”
Skeen said the Knights’ trapping defense is something his team has relied on to help put teams away all season.
“It’s what we do,” Skeen said. “It’s what we hang our hat on. Coach Nate will tell you that every time we play someone they are going to spend half the practice the day before (working on the trap). What we would like to say is that it is hard to simulate what we do and we’ve got some length and we’ve got some athleticism.
“I thought from a gameplan standpoint, our kids did exactly what we talked about.”
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—Andrew Ayers 10, Brian Hughes 1, Caleb Taylor 40, Reid Jones 0, Josh Alexander 2, David Barhanovich 5, Jacob Storkson 0, Joe Stack 0, Daniel Fouty 2, Calvin Kispert 10, Mason Friedline 2. Sultan—Robbie Rappuhn 2, Steven Branham 23, Brock VandenEkart 24, Cooper Beucherie 2, Sam Cotterill 8, Antonio Rivas 4, Joe Schmidt 0. 3-point goals—Taylor 5, Barhanovich 1, Ayers 1, Branham 1, VandenEkart 2, Cotterill 2. Records—King’s 9-0 league, 13-3 overall; Sultan 6-3, 7-8.