Knights begin title hunt Thursday in Boise
Moscow Pullman Daily News, Tuesday, March 3
Logos boys basketball coach Matt Whitling doesn’t have a special formula for how prepare his team for its first state tournament appearance in school history.
It’s his first time, too.
“Us focusing on practicing hard over the next couple of days and playing the way we’ve played all season long is what we’re going to do,” said Whitling, who is in his tenth (non-consecutive) year with the team. “We’re going to focus on one possession at a time and getting good defensive stops and having fun working hard on offense. It’s a ‘one possession at a time’ goal for us. Part of it will be the fun of learning what it’s like to be in Boise and play in the state tournament.”
The Knights enter the Division IA District 2 State Tournament with a 17-6 overall record, after punching their ticket with a convincing 80-50 victory over Cascade on Saturday in a play-in contest. Logos will begin its state title journey against MacKay at 6:15 p.m. on Thursday at Caldwell High School.
“We really have two objectives in that game: No. 1 is we want to work harder than them, and the second objective is we want to have more fun than they do on the court,” Whitling said. “We’re going to state with those two goals and one game in mind. If we’re successful against MacKay then we’ll bring those two goals to the next team we play. There’s a lot that we have to learn as we go and we’re excited to see what it’s like.”
The Knights are led by their trio of seniors – Levi Wintz, Jonny Handel and Paul Ryan – all of whom have been playing Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) basketball together since the eighth grade and were key contributors on last year’s state championship track team.
Ryan is set to run cross country/track at Washington State next season, while Handel will head to Lewiston to run for Lewis-Clark State College. But in the meantime, they have a state title to contend for.
“It’s a great group of guys, Whitling said. “They’re not especially tall but they’re very fast and they work very hard.”
Wintz is still unsure of his collegiate destination for next year (he’s considering Idaho) but his play on the court has been nothing short of certain all season. The 6-foot-1 track star was recently named Whitepine Player of the Year and has had several games this season in which he surpassed the 20-point mark. He was joined by Ryan on the All-League First Team.
“Levi has been the recipient of a lot of great passes from his teammates this year,” Whitling said. “He’s a great player but he’s a part of the team. We’ve got guys who are getting good defensive stops and feeding him the ball and he has just done a great job of finishing.”
Whitling described the 5-7 Handel as the team’s workhorse, who frequently sacrifices his body, as he did in Saturday’s win over Cascade when dove into stands white attempting a steal.
“He has the scrapes and bruises on his knees and forearms that we want him to have,” Whitling said. “He’s an aggressive guy and he really makes up for his height in work ethic.”
It will take strong efforts from all three seniors, including the point guard play of the 6-1 Ryan, for Logos to continue to make history and bring the school a basketball state championship.
“The biggest thing that we focus on is defense,” Whitling said. “We tend to be shorter than our competition and usually lighter. We have to really get after it on the defensive end. A lot of hard work and moving our feet on defense, and hustle, is where we start.”
The Logos boys basketball team is traveling to the state tournament in Caldwell (just west of Boise). Their first game is at 5:15 PST tomorrow (Thursday). You can watch this and all subsequent games this weekend at http://www.idahosports.com/