By Justin Damasiewicz
Larry Moore’s coaching strategy is a little bit different from many high school coaches. The 28-year head coach of the North Beach High School boys basketball team does not scout opponents. Instead, the Hyaks, who have been ranked as high as second in the state this season, focus on what they do best and force other teams to plan for them.
More importantly, Moore teaches his players that there is a right way to play the game, even if it is not always the easiest way.
“I feel that there is a right way and a wrong way to go about your business,” Moore said. “The right way may not always be the most successful, but it’s the right way. There’s a certain philosophy our coaches take. It may not work all the time, but I think in the long run it will lead to more success than panicking or whining about officiating or other players. We try to focus on our guys, and our kids try to focus on just playing basketball, not the officials, and not what some kid on the other team is saying. I’m not saying that we’re perfect at it all the time, but that’s what we try to do.”
This season, which Moore says is the most successful of his coaching tenure, North Beach won 15 consecutive games to start before finally falling to the Willapa Valley Vikings on the road. However, when the Vikings visited North Beach’s “House of Pain” earlier in the season there was a much different result.
In a thrilling contest replete with clutch plays by both teams, North Beach came out on top with a 64-62 win in overtime. Seniors Pedro Gonzlaes, Carson Ketter and Justin Chong agreed that the win over Valley has been the highlight of their season so far. Gonzales converted a transition layup off of a feed from Corey Thornton that sent the game into overtime.
Thornton was the hero of the game for North Beach. In addition to a 3-pointer, steal and assist in the final minute of regulation, the senior guard scored seven of the Hyaks’ 12 points in overtime.
According to Gonzales, Ketter and Chong, the two teams have built up a friendly rivalry over the last couple of seasons. Since many of the athletes play multiple sports, they have had many opportunities to compete against each other.
When asked to describe their team, Moore and long time assistant coach and junior varsity coach Ken Juarez came up the words “toughness” and “confidence.”
Juarez is in his 11th season with the program, and has been coaching many of the Hyaks’ current varsity players for several years.
“I started with these kids in seventh grade,” Juarez said. “We were very successful through junior high. They bought into the hard work and playing defense. They realized that defense is fun. Stealing the ball and scoring is a lot easier than working in a half-court set and scoring.”
The Hyaks start every game in a 2-2-1 zone, full-court press defense, but will switch to man-to-man coverage if the zone is not working. Tough, intense defense is a staple of this team and it leads to many transition buckets. Moore and Juarez preach a “let our defense lead to offense” philosophy to their players, and this group of kids has really embraced it.
“We’re a very deep team, and we have a lot of kids with good varsity experience from last year,” Moore said. “We’re not afraid of a challenge. Our kids have confidence in themselves. We have great senior leadership and everybody accepts what their roles are. We’re a deep team and we play as a team. These kids work hard every day in practice. The one thing that’s always consistent is that we’re working hard, no matter what. The kids’ greatest challenge is to be here every day and work as hard as you can every day. That’s our main focus. We try to get better every day.”
Although playing full court defense virtually all the time can be very tiring, the players would not have it any other way. Depth and experience allow the Hyaks to play defense in such an exhausting fashion.
“Most of the kids on our team are in good shape and we’re athletic enough to keep going,” Chong said. “We just do whatever we can to win.”
“If we get tired, we know someone else can come in,” Ketter added.
The Hyaks dedicated this season to long-time, multi-sport Hyaks coach Bob Sutter, who passed away in July of 2013.
As the regular season winds down and playoffs are just around the corner, the Hyaks do not plan to change their approach one bit. They will still work hard, try to get better every day, take it one game at a time and play as a team. They will try to play the game the right way, the North Beach way.