Olivia Vanni / The Herald
Arlington’s David Zachman tries to grab the ball from Shorecrest’s Disma Kagarabi during a game on Jan. 19 at Arlington High School.

Olivia Vanni / The Herald Arlington’s David Zachman tries to grab the ball from Shorecrest’s Disma Kagarabi during a game on Jan. 19 at Arlington High School.

Despite losing 9 seniors, Arlington boys just keep soaring

After graduating key pieces from last season’s league-title team, the new-look Eagles are on top of Wesco 3A/2A once again.

Change is imminent in the cyclical world of high school sports.

The graduation of a large, talented senior class or even the departure of just one or two standout players can transform the entire look of a team. Oftentimes, the turnover can force a league title contender or state tournament-caliber squad to take a step back.

The Arlington High School boys basketball team has been an exception.

The Eagles finished first in Wesco 3A/2A and claimed their first league title in a eight years a season ago. They also reached the state regionals for the third time in the past four full-length seasons.

Arlington graduated nine seniors off that team, including star guard and Wesco 3A/2A player of the year Ethan Martin. The strong senior class combined for over three-quarters of the Eagles’ scoring and nearly 70% of the production in most of the other major statistical categories.

With so much firepower to replace, it was time for Arlington to take a step back this winter, right?

Think again.

Despite all the turnover, the Eagles just keep soaring.

Arlington is once again near the top of Wesco 3A/2A hierarchy this winter. The team entered Friday as one of just two in the league with two conference losses. This coming week the Eagles head into the Class 3A District 1 Tournament with one of the top seeds and a first-round bye. And it’s a mostly new group that has the team’s sights set on a milestone moment for the program — a trip back to the Tacoma Dome for the first time in a decade.

“I think this is one of the better teams I’ve had,” Arlington coach Nick Brown said. “I’m not surprised by that. I’m just surprised by how consistent they are being a young team.”

The Eagles returned just two players who saw significant varsity minutes last season. This season’s roster includes five sophomores, six call-ups from junior varsity and two more from the C-team.

Yet the squad has been rolling since the beginning of the season. After dropping its opener to 2A fifth-ranked Sehome, Arlington piled up seven straight victories by an average of 13.4 points, including a six-point win over 15-4 Camas.

Then after a loss to Mountlake Terrace at the end of December, the Eagles rattled off nine consecutive league victories in a perfect January. Arlington outscored opponents by 21.4 points over the stretch and didn’t allow over 48 points in a contest.

“We’ve put a lot of pieces together with a young team,” senior David Zachman said. “We’ve just been grinding.”

Brown credited his team’s quick transition in part to the program’s development at its lower levels. The junior-varsity squad is led by Jeff Bryson, who coached the Darrington boys to a 2003 Class B state championship and 10 state tournament appearance in 17 seasons.

Arlington’s junior-varsity team has had unbeaten seasons under Bryson and is only one win away from another one-loss campaign. The C-team also went unbeaten last year.

“We don’t have a team. We have a program here,” Brown said. “Our youth know what to do when they get here. They understand expectations and that we have a high standard of quality. We try to really make sure we hold our kids to that as not only players but as citizens.”

Brown also praised his players for quickly buying into their roles. With a mixture of five seniors, two juniors and five sophomores, many of his players had played with each other growing up, but the entire collective hadn’t been together as one.

As evident by their 16-3 record entering Friday, the Eagles didn’t have many hiccups learning to mesh.

“We’re all really close to each other,” sophomore Leyton Martin said of the team’s cohesion. “We trust one another.”

A stingy defense has been at the heart of Arlington’s success on the court.

The Eagles lead Wesco 3A/2A in fewest points allowed during league competition. The team is surrendering just 42.9 points per game — over four points better than the next closest team — and hasn’t allowed an opponent to surpass 48 points since the start of January.

Brown and players credited assistant coach Ronnie Pride’s defensive adjustments for the success.

“Ronnie has changed our defense around a lot,” Zachman said. “That’s our identity is as a defensive team. Defense first and then the offense will follow.”

Pride said the team uses multiple defenses to attack the opponent’s weaknesses, and the success has been the result of an overall team effort.

The team grades out a defensive player of the game after each contest. At least seven different Eagles have received that honor this season, Pride said.

“We have a lot of fighters on our team, guys that want to do the dirty work,” Martin said. “We have a lot of guys that just want to do whatever they can to win.”

Zachman and Martin have been the go-to options for Arlington offensively.

Zachman, the team’s lone returning starter, is averaging team highs with 15.8 points and 7.4 rebounds, including a season-high 36 points in the Eagles’ victory over rival Stanwood on Jan. 24. The 6-foot-6 center is a major threat in the paint and can also step outside and knock down 3-pointers.

“He’s lifted his game and become an incredible leader,” Brown said.

Martin has made a major leap this season. As a freshman, he averaged 4.4 points and two rebounds while playing complimentary role off the bench for the varsity team. This winter the crafty 6-foot guard has stuffed the stat sheet with an impressive line, tallying 14.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, six assists and 2.7 steals per contest.

“He’s so fast and so hard to guard,” Brown said. “… The sky is the limit for that kid.”

Martin’s breakout sophomore campaign has come despite suffering a broken arm in early October while playing quarterback for the Arlington football team. Brown said Martin wore a cast for the first two weeks of practice and wasn’t 100% when the team opened the season against Sehome. But Martin still battled through the injury and didn’t miss a game.

“He just fought through it,” Brown said. “We didn’t think he’d play until like the second or third week.”

Martin, Zachman and fellow co-captain Ty Rusko have also provided the leadership a team with so little varsity experience needs, Brown said.

“They just don’t have any room for messing around. There’s no room for any sort of complaining or distractions from what we’re trying to accomplish. That makes my job easier because it’s not always like that.”

Rusko, a senior, is one of two other varsity returners for Arlington. He played sparingly behind the large senior class a season ago and is one of many who have grown into a key role this season.

“We knew we were varsity players. We just had a good class in front of us (last season),” Rusko said of the new group. “We have a lot of heart in this group and a lot will to win.”

The Eagles aim to keep winning when postseason play starts with the district tournament next week. Arlington is searching for its fourth state regionals appearance in the past five full-length seasons and ultimately hopes to rid itself of its four-game losing streak in the regional round.

“We’ve been getting to regionals and that’s awesome, but we’re tired of that,” Brown said. “We want to get past that.”

“I’m excited to see these guys get put to the test,” he added. “… I’d like to see these guys experience state in the Tacoma Dome, because that’s a once in a lifetime.”

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Sports

Everett High School’s Shukurani Ndayiragije is a contender to win all three jumping events at the Class 3A state boys track and field meet. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Power rankings: Who has the best shot at prep state titles?

Ranking the local athletes and teams who have the best chance during this weekend’s state events.

Vote for The Herald’s Prep Athlete of the Week for May 13-19

The Athlete of the Week nominees for May 13-19. Voting closes at… Continue reading

Mountlake Terrace players react to a run during a baseball game between Mountlake Terrace and Bishop Blanchet at Edmonds-Woodway High School in Edmonds, Washington on Saturday, May 18, 2024. Mountlake Terrace won, 12-7.(Annie Barker / The Herald)
Mountlake Terrace baseball’s season ends in state quarters

The Hawks beat Bishop Blanchet 12-7 in the morning, but fall 10-9 to West Seattle in the afternoon.

Prep roundup for Saturday, May 18

Prep roundup for Saturday, May 18: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Jackson players react to beating Kamiak to win the 4A district championship on Friday, May 17, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Jackson softball rallies past Kamiak for district title

Yanina Sherwood dominates in the circle, striking out 10 in the 4-3 come-from-behind victory.

Wolfpack carrying on, despite AFL turmoil

The rebooted league contracts, changes commissioner in the wake of unpaid obligations.

Prep roundup for Friday, May 17

Prep roundup for Friday, May 17: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Why being mad on the mound is good for Andrés Muñoz, M’s

The Mariners’ closer is dominating, and a lot of that is because of his attitude.

Everett players celebrate during a Class 3A District 1 softball championship game between Snohomish and Everett at Phil Johnson Fields in Everett, Washington on Thursday, May 16, 2024. Everett won, 10-0. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Everett softball upsets Snohomish for district championship

Freshman Mia Hoekendorf leads the way as the Seagulls defeat the top-seeded Panthers 10-0.

The members of the Snohomish High School boys golf team (from left to right): Cade Strickland, Tyson Olds, Palmer Mutcheson, Hudson Capelli, Drew Hanson and Jackson Dammann. (Photo courtesy of Mark Myers Photography)
Senior-led Snohomish takes aim at state boys golf

Five of the six Panthers who will play at state are seniors who attended elementary school together.

Prep roundup for Thursday, May 16

Prep roundup for Thursday, May 16: (Note for coaches/scorekeepers: To report results… Continue reading

Snohomish's Hannah Wells, right, celebrates during a Class 3A District 1 girls tennis tournament at Snohomish High School in Snohomish, Washington on Wednesday, May 15, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Shorewood girls tennis claims third straight district trophy

Rylie Gettmann leads the way for the Stormrays, winning her third district singles championship.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.