Prep boys basketball: Tenino relishes state trip, aims to return with lineup intact

Mar. 6—YAKIMA — Experience almost didn't matter.

For the entirety of Tenino High School's boys basketball team, playing in an environment such as the Yakima Valley SunDome wasn't a yearly occurrence.

It had been 17 years since the Beavers had appeared in the Class 1A state tournament. Add in playing King's, a team that knew the atmosphere like the back of its hand, Tenino was facing an uphill battle.

And it nearly reached the top.

A valiant double digit rally in the second half wasn't enough for the Beavers to get into the quarterfinals and in their first trip since 2007, they went one-and-done.

"We had this goal, if we take of our business, we'll be playing in this tournament," coach Ryan Robertson said. "We're playing really good teams. I hope, and I think this will happen, their disappointment right now is going to be so great, they'll be super hungry."

Still, Robertson noticed a big difference in his group.

When Tenino played eventual state champion Zillah in the opening round as the eight seed, the former had never played in a contest of that magnitude. The Beavers were on the same court as an unbeaten power that many pegged to go all the way.

They lost that game by 26 points.

"That was big and we were starry-eyed," Robertson said.

Yet as the game went along versus the Knights and the offense started to hum, Robertson really started to notice his players getting more comfortable playing in Yakima.

The Beavers felt it too.

"We started to figure it out in the second half," forward Jack Burkhardt said. "We were comfortable, we just had to get used to it."

It proved to be a season of plenty of triumphs for Tenino, winning the Evergreen League by two games and taking second place in the District 4 tournament as the number one seed.

The starting lineup was composed of all juniors, but no one believes this group arrived early.

"I feel like this is a good learning experience," guard Noah Schow said. "We just have to build off it. Individually, I thought we would be here; we talked about it since day one. Not towards later in the season did people believe we would get (here)."

With everyone expected back in the fold, the Beavers believe they can make it back to Yakima and have the tools to go farther.

An off-season of work plus another season of chemistry is expected to be the backbone of whether they can continue to pile up another double digit winning season.

Coupled with the heartbreak of almost stunning a program in King's that was the runners-up two consecutive years prior to this one, there's plenty of motivation that left the locker room.

"It is 100 percent going to motivate us," Schow said. "We know we can play in this environment. We want to make it farther than we did (this year)."