EDMONDS — For a team that started out with visions of a league title and the school’s first state berth, missing out on the playoffs altogether must seem nothing short of unfathomable.
Indeed, 2003-04 will go down as a season the Shorewood boys basketball team won’t soon forget. But for all the wrong reasons.
The same set of Thunderbirds who were the consensus pick to rule the Western Conference 4A South Division were officially ousted from the postseason picture with their 65-47 loss to Edmonds-Woodway on Tuesday.
Shorewood was scheduled to wrap up its season last night at home against Everett. A win would lift the T-birds (8-9 league, 9-10 overall) to a .500 finish — a far cry from where they expected to wind up in December.
“I thought we’d be going to the district tournament next week,” Shorewood coach Jeff Denny said.
Instead of making a return appearance at the Northwest District 4A tournament, the T-birds will finish in the middle of the Wesco South pack. Mountlake Terrace, Edmonds-Woodway, Kamiak and Mariner beat out Shorewood for the league’s four district berths.
“It’s definitely a disappointing season,” Denny said. “I’m embarrassed by our effort, by our work ethic.”
The T-birds have been dogged by a number of factors this season, including academic eligibility issues, injuries and illness. But Denny felt that down the stretch Shorewood disintegrated for the simple reason that not everyone was giving their all.
“We dealt with different things where guys were going in and out and that hurt our team chemistry,” Denny said. “But over the past couple games it’s been our effort. The effort’s been good with some guys and the effort has not been there with some of the other guys.
“To me it’s baffling why there are guys who simply aren’t working hard, because by no means were we out of it last week or the week before. We’ve got guys who aren’t giving 100 percent. Over the summer we’ll find guys who want to get after it and have a passion for the game.”
Stemming from an extremely successful spring and summer, the T-birds were forthright about their potential at the start of the season. With its entire starting lineup from the previous year returning intact, Shorewood was widely viewed as the class of the league.
The postseason seemed like a lock, that is until the T-birds struggled through their first wave of Wesco South games. An unexpected 0-4 hole left Shorewood with too much ground to make up, but the T-birds remained in the playoff hunt until the final week by winning eight of their next 11 league contests.
By then, the T-birds had long since disappeared out of the state polls, partially due to three heartbreaking, one-point defeats. Shorewood dropped two more games by fewer than five points.
“We knew coming in it was going to be a tough start for us,” Denny said. “It seemed like we just kept getting pounded down with those one-point losses. It almost got comical after awhile.
“We had some close games at the beginning that just didn’t go our way. All season long it felt like a break here or a break there and we’d be OK.”
Though they garnered more preseason hoopla than any other Wesco South squad, Denny didn’t get the sense that his players let the excess attention go to their heads.
“I felt more like they didn’t have an understanding of how hard teams are going to play against you when you get that preseason hype,” Denny said. “Teams really came at us hard and continued to do that all year. When you’re up there in that top 10, teams are gunning for you.”
Shorewood will lose six seniors to graduation, but with standout juniors Rob Diederichs and Sean Tracey coming back along with some key reserves, the T-birds will likely be among the league favorites again next season.
But Denny acknowledged it will take some time to get over the sting of sitting out of the playoffs this season.
“To the guys’ credit, they stayed positive and we fought back. We put ourselves in a position to win,” Denny said.
“I’m still trying to figure out what happened with our work ethic. It wasn’t that we didn’t have guys who could go hard, just for some reason it wasn’t there.”