Consider this year the overture for the Hoquiam High School boys basketball team.
The real show appears to be starting next season.
Despite being the youngest team at the Class 1A state tournament, the Grizzlies, who started five juniors and featured just one senior on their roster, claimed their first state trophy since 2006 with a sixth-place finish at the Yakima Valley SunDome.
Led by 1A/2A Evergreen League most valuable player Jack Adams III and first-team all-league selection Jace Varner, the Grizzlies finished the season with a record of 21-7. It marked just the sixth time over the last 70 years that the program placed at the state tournament.
Hoquiam, which shared the regular season league championship with 2A Aberdeen, will graduate senior Brett Pelan, but welcome everyone else back next year.
By comparison, none of the other five teams placing at the 1A tournament had fewer than three seniors. Kings, which won its second straight championship and third-place King’s Way Christian both had five seniors, while fifth-place Kalama featured six. Runner-up Freeman and fourth-place Zillah each had three seniors, all starters, on its rosters.
“It’s just a great group of guys to coach,” said Hoquiam head coach Curtis Eccles, who shared league honors as co-coach of the year with Montesano’s Doug Galloway. “It’s going to be sad losing Brett, but what a way to go out your senior year by going to Yakima.”
Adams, Varner and company will be gunning for some history next year as they look to capture the program’s first state championship since 2004 – a year where the Grizzlies capped a perfect 28-0 campaign by defeating East Valley of Yakima, 41-37, in the title game.
It remains the last year a 2A team went undefeated.
Whether it’s first or sixth, should Hoquiam claim another state trophy next year, it would be just the second time since 1946 the Grizzlies registered back-to-back state placings, joining 2003 (fourth place) and 2004 (first) as the only other time that’s happened over the 70-year time span.
Jerod Steen, a second-team all-league honoree, Gregory Dick, an honorable mention pick, and Zach Spradlin joined fellow juniors Adams and Varner in the starting line-up this year.
In addition, juniors Ryan Espedal, Anthony Nash and Skyler Jump, sophomore Naz Mazeriegos and freshman Payton Quintanilla all saw the floor at the state tournament, an experience that should prove extremely valuable in 2017.
A dreadful second quarter doomed the Grizzlies as they fell into the consolation bracket following a 60-47 loss to Freeman during the first day of the state tournament.
A 3-pointer by Spradlin gave Hoquiam its largest lead of the contest at 16-12 with 1:15 remaining in the first quarter. The Scotties, however, took full control of the game, closing out the first half on a 26-3 run to post a 38-19 advantage at the break as the Grizzles shot just 1 for 13 from the field in the second quarter.
Hoquiam was able to cut the deficit to 10 points at 55-45 on a Varner basket with 1:40 to play, but the early deficit proved to be too great to overcome.
The Grizzlies shot just 34 percent for the game (19-of-56), missing 13 of the 15 3-pointers they attempted.
Steen paced Hoquiam with 16 points against Freeman, Varner added 12, Spradlin 7 and Dick scored six points and pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds.
Freeman would go on to lose to Kings in the state title game, 80-39.
Adams shook off a rough shooting performance in the quarterfinals by lighting up the SunDome the following day to help the Grizzlies post their first state playoff victory in a decade by sinking six 3-pointers and scoring 26 points, to power Hoquiam past Cashmere, 68-64, in a consolation game.
Varner scored 20 points and Dick went for 11 points and eight rebounds to guarantee a place in the trophy round for Hoquiam with the win.
The Grizzlies closed out their season with a 71-60 loss to Zillah in a game for fourth and sixth place.
A jumper from Varner with just under 2 minutes left in the third quarter produced the game’s sixth tie at 49, but the Leopards, who shot a blistering 62 percent from the field (13 of 21) in the second half, opened the fourth on an 8-2 run and gradually pulled away.
Dick and Steen both scored 15 points, while Adams and Varner contributed nine points each.