Marysville Getchell junior guard Aiden Verdugo (center) smiles while leading a dribbling drill during practice on Wednesday in Marysville. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Marysville Getchell junior guard Aiden Verdugo (center) smiles while leading a dribbling drill during practice on Wednesday in Marysville. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

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‘Never give up’ mentality leads Getchell boys to 1st state berth

The Chargers fought through three loser-out games in the district tournament to reach regionals.

Never give up.

It’s a simple mentality, and one Marysville Getchell High School junior Josiah Koellmer said the Chargers’ boys basketball program has tried to embrace this season.

“Down 30, up 30 — it’s never over. We’re gonna keep fighting,” Koellmer said. “That’s kind of something our coach (Corby Schuh) has given us. He’s stapled that into our brain to never give up, whether we’re up or down. It’s never over. The other team’s not gonna stop fighting and we’re not gonna stop fighting.

“That’s just kind of the mentality for us. We’re all on the same mission. Win or lose, we’re not gonna give up no matter what.’’

The team showed its taken that mantra to heart last week during the Class 3A Northwest District Tournament.

After falling in a tightly contested first-round matchup with Shorecrest on Feb. 15, the Chargers needed to win three straight games in a week to earn a first-ever trip to the regional round of the state tournament. Their path to a state berth through the consolation bracket of the district tournament got off to a rocky start.

Marysville Getchell entered the fourth quarter of a loser-out contest with Arlington down nine points, but that’s when star guard Malakhi Knight took over. The junior poured in 21 of his game-high 41 points in the fourth quarter as the Chargers rode a 34-point outburst in the final period to a 77-70 win.

“I feel like whenever we step on the court we have the best player in the league on our side,” Schuh said. “That’s a really good feeling for sure.”

Marysville Getchell followed that by staving off a third-quarter comeback from Edmonds-Woodway in the consolation bracket semifinals to earn a shot at Meadowdale with a regional berth on the line.

The Chargers again faced adversity. Meadowdale raced out to a 17-5 lead early in the second quarter and Marysville Getchell needed to stage a comeback to extend its season. Knight gave Marysville Getchell its first lead late in the third quarter and scored nine points in the fourth as the Chargers pulled away for a 50-40 victory.

“We knew that we could still come back and win three games,” Knight said, “and for us to actually do that shows how much fight we all have and how much adversity we overcame.”

The win put a permanent stamp on what’s been a banner season for the Marysville Getchell boys basketball program.

After recording their first-ever .500 season last year, the Chargers have taken another step forward while achieving a program-record 16 wins. Now a Friday trip to Puyallup High School to take on tenth-seeded Mount Tahoma at 6 p.m. lies ahead.

“It’s really exciting to be in this position,” Schuh said. “I’m proud of these guys and what they’ve accomplished so far. They’re hungry and they’re ready to get after in the next few days at practice and get a win Friday night. It’s really exciting.”

A win over Mount Tahoma (18-6) would send Marysville Getchell (16-8) to the Hardwood Classic at the Tacoma Dome.

“I think it’s like every kid’s dream when they’re younger to get to play in the Tacoma Dome at some point in high school,” Knight said. “So for us to get there would be a dream come true.”

But in order to get this far, the Chargers have had to grow throughout the season.

Knight, the program’s all-time leading scorer, and Koellmer entered the season as the only two players with much varsity experience after seven seniors graduated from last season’s team. Knight and Koellmer have taken on roles as leaders for Marysville Getchell while their teammates have adjusted to their roles on the varsity squad.

“Absolutely huge leadership from them,” Schuh said. “… (We) really relied on Knight and Koellmer a lot of the season in terms of big minutes and the experience.”

Knight provides the Chargers with a do-it-all point guard that’s seemingly capable of a 30-point, 10-rebound performance on any given outing, and Koellmer has been a reliable second scoring option and vocal leader for a junior-heavy group.

“Jo is definitely the energizer,” Knight said. “If we’re struggling or something, he’s always the one to get into us and tell us to pick it up and don’t stop believing because he believes in us. He’s definitely the one that gets us going.”

And the new faces on the Chargers’ varsity roster have risen to the occasion to provide a strong nucleus that is slated to return all but two players next season.

“That’s the only reason why we’re still playing,” Schuh said. “I mean those guys have had to step up and score buckets and play big minutes and also play both ends of the floor. Austin Townsend has been huge in some of those games, being a scoring threat. When teams try to run box-and-one and triangle-and-two (defenses), Austin’s stepped up and hit some big shots. He can score inside and out. Alex Owens is another kid that has played well.

“… If a team is gonna play straight up, play man, play zone and not take Malakhi away, we’re gonna obviously run our offense through Malakhi, but when teams try and take him away, our guys know it’s time to step up.”

Townsend provided the dagger against Meadowdale when he hit a late 3-pointer to put the Chargers up 49-40, and he exploded for 26 points in the regular-season finale against Arlington. Owens’ 14 point-performance against Edmonds-Woodway proved key in getting by a strong Warriors squad.

Schuh, Knight and Koellmer also highlighted the efforts of top defenders Cole Norton and Landyn Olson.

It should come as no surprise that this team has been able to gel throughout the season, though, as Marysville Getchell’s core has shared the court together from a young age.

“We’re like eight years deep into playing with each other, so we know each other inside and out,” Koellmer said. “We know how to get people going, what not to do. We just know what to do and how to have each other’s backs since we’ve been playing together for so long.”

And Knight and Koellmer believe this is just the beginning of a special couple of seasons for this group.

“We can even do better next year,” Koellmer said. “This year is just kind of getting us ready for next year honestly and kind of seeing what (the state playoffs are) like, seeing what the stakes are gonna be.”

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