When Darrington boys basketball coach Cam Ross took over the Loggers’ program four seasons ago, one of the first things he told his players was that they were going to get the team back to where it used to be.
The Loggers were coming off a seventh straight losing season and were far from the program that had won a 2003 Class B state title and made state playoff appearances in nine of 12 seasons from 1996-2008.
It was gonna take work.
“I always told the boys you can’t be a basketball player just from November to January, February,” Ross said. “You have to pick up a basketball, whether it’s going down to the local park here and just playing two-on-two or shooting baskets by yourself. You can’t just wait until November to pick up a basketball and expect everything to just be great. It takes time and effort.”
Ross could tell from his players’ responses that they were ready to take on the task.
“I had some kids just shaking their heads like, ‘Yeah,’” he said. “So I knew I had some buy-in from kids. They were tired of being beat down. They worked hard and bought into going to summer camps and summer basketball tournaments, getting better.”
Darrington won just three games in Ross’ first season and four in 2017-18, but last season noticeable progress emerged as the Loggers tallied 15 victories and earned their first winning season and district tournament berth since 2008-09. It was also the first time the team had eclipsed four wins over that span.
“We knew we were gonna have to make goals,” said senior Brevin Ross, Cam’s son. “Our sophomore year (2017-18) it was to be competitive with teams in our league, and last year we really wanted to make a district playoff run and we were able to make districts last year.”
Brevin Ross said the goal this season was a league title and a state playoff run.
Darrington clinched a share of the Northwest 2B/1B Conference title in early February and punched its ticket to the regional round of the 2B state tournament with a 49-47 victory over Auburn Adventist this past Saturday.
“If I’m being honest, this was all kind of part of our plan,” Brevin Ross said. “We came in our freshman year and we knew we were gonna be a rebuilding program. We started a lot of young guys. We had a lot of freshmen, sophomores starting on our varsity team.”
Darrington’s landmark victory didn’t come without a drama-filled week on the hardwood, though. The Loggers had a chance to clinch a state berth this past Thursday in the 2B Tri-District 1/2/3 Tournament title game against Friday Harbor. It was the rubber match of three meetings between the co-Northwest 2B/1B champions, and the Loggers entered the fourth quarter with a 12-point lead that Friday Harbor eventually overcame for a 48-47 win.
“It was a crusher,” Cam Ross said. “Kind of a quiet bus ride home.”
That loss pushed Darrington to its winner-to-state, loser-out true second-place contest with Auburn Adventist just two days later.
“Friday I came into practice and our kids were still a little bit bummed out,” Cam Ross said. “I talked to them and told them what was on the line, what we worked for. If we played the way we did in the first half on Thursday night, I was confident that we could come out with a victory on Saturday.”
The Loggers flipped the script in their final chance for a state berth. Darrington entered the fourth quarter down 11 points and pulled within 47-46 in the final minutes despite junior Caleb Rivera, who had poured in a game-high 28 points, fouling out midway through the final period. Senior Aden Requa delivered the clutch play the Loggers needed with just under 50 seconds to go. The 6-foot guard intercepted a cross-court skip pass and sprinted down the court for the difference-making layup, and Darrington added a free throw to hold on for a 49-47 victory.
“I really wasn’t thinking too much,” Requa said of what was going through his mind has he raced down the court for the game-winning bucket. “I was kind of all in the moment. All I was thinking about was scoring and hoping to not get fouled. I was trying to keep a clear mind (and) trying not to get worried about anything.”
The Loggers held Auburn Adventist to only one point over the final eight minutes.
“The boys never panicked. They just kind of kept playing their game and kept chipping away,” Cam Ross said. “… The kids just kind of never gave in and really buckled down on defense.”
It was a special moment for the senior class of Brevin Ross, Requa and Bashaun Williams, who all entered the program when Cam Ross took over.
“It’s something as a kid growing up I’ve always wanted to see and be a part of,” Brevin Ross said, “and it’s cool we finally got that. The support we’ve been getting here is unreal from people that are in this town.”
No. 13 seed Darrington (17-6) faces 12th-seeded Kettle Falls (16-9) in a loser-out state regional game at 6 p.m. Saturday at Mount Spokane High School. The winner advances to a 7:15 p.m. Wednesday matchup at Spokane Veterans Memorial Arena with the loser of fifth-seeded Life Christian and No. 4 seed Brewster.
“We set a goal and we’ve reached it. That’s amazing,” Williams said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the team and the family I’m with right now.”