Sunday, March 08, 2009

Winlock Takes Fifth In State!!

Hi basketball fans! If you're not a basketball fan, you might as well bail now, because this post is all about how awesome the Winlock boys basketball team is, and how proud I am of my nephew, Jake Brown! The Winlock Cardinals beat the Naches Valley Rangers 56-38 on Saturday morning to take fifth in the Washington 1A Boys Basketball Tournament--their best trophy ever at the state level. According to the Associated Press, they shot 59 percent from the field to get there, and were 11 for 17 in the second half. The quarters in high school ball are only 8 minutes long, so you can imagine what an exciting game it was for them to rack up 58 points in 32 minutes! Jake scored 14 points and hauled down 10 rebounds to cap off a stellar senior year, and Ked and I couldn't be more proud of him.

All the boys showed tremendous grace under pressure, and one of the things which impressed us the most watching them through the season was how focused they were the whole time they were on the court. These kids are not whiners. They don't blame a bad game on bad calls (not that they had many bad games--they ended the year 24-3), and they don't waste energy "acting" to sway the refs. (We did see some of that at the tourney from other teams. Found it pretty sad.) They just play basketball really, really well. The starters on the squad have been playing together since they were tykes, and it shows. They work together and care about the team more than they care about their own glory. Not that there's not glory to be had--as 6'9" Jake wandered conspicuously through the crowd after the game, kids who barely reached his knees were clambering for his notice. Autograph hounds had him signing programs and shirts. One enthusiastic fan, lacking a souvenir at hand, even had Jake sign his chest! It's enough to turn anyone's head, but Winlock's boys seem to have kept theirs on their shoulders. Everyone we've talked to about the squad has said over and over that these are good kids, and good friends who just love playing the game together. That's a joy to watch.

I only wish I got to watch more of this particular game. Ked practiced all day Friday at the tournament with the camera to get the perfect action shots, but at the last minute he got recruited to camcorder duty (this is the result of snagging front row seats), so I was left with the Canon SLR and a big fat zoom lens, neither of which were particularly familiar to me. I did my best. I missed a lot of the action, because I was so focused on following Jake around in the viewfinder, hoping to catch some magic moments, but it was a lot of fun anyway, and I think I snagged a few memories for Jake and the family. Hope you enjoy them. (Click on the photos to enlarge them. I didn't bother to reduce the file size for these pictures, so some of them will be too big for the screen and you'll have to scroll around a bit to catch everything, but some of them really are worth seeing in their bigger versions.)

The game begins. I don't know why Coach Gary Viggers has his head in his hands, but I assure you that didn't last. Viggers had a lot to be happy about in this final game of his coaching career at Winlock. The boys did him proud. Just as a side note, Tyler Hertz walked by my husband and me after the game. He's number three in the Cardinal jersey. Ked noted, "Wow. You look a lot smaller on the court!" That's because Tyler is 6'2". He's something of a tree in his own right, but when the average height of your starting line-up is 6'5", even Tyler starts looking petite!

The guys fought tough right from the beginning. Jake works hard the whole time he's on the court, as this Naches Ranger is finding out.

Those legs may be long, but Jake can get low when he needs to. Look at the concentration on that face!

I'm bummed I cut the top of the ball off in this shot, but look at that form!! Two of his fourteen points are on their way.

Winlock is always tough on the boards. Here's one of Jake's 10 rebounds. Ked and I watched Naches Valley win their match on Friday and were impressed with how well Naches shot from the outside, especially number 33 (whose name I do not know and am too lazy to Google). We were afraid that hot shooting might give Winlock some trouble, but the Cardinals shut them down pretty effectively. Naches only shot 33 percent for the game, making 13 of 40 attempts at the basket. Winlock cleaned up at the boards in the process.

I don't remember Jake being born with springs in his legs, but they must have been there, because the evidence is all over the place when he's on the court.

Winlock's solid performance included a good showing from the line. Jake made all 4 of his free throws. Here, Jordan Davis takes his best shot, although, I confess, I don't know if this one went down. I was too busy trying to follow Jake with the camera to see if he pulled down a rebound! Sorry, Jordan. You're important, too. Honest!

Nothing particular to say for this one. Just catching a little nice ball handling. Basketball really is a great game.

And the crowd goes wild!! Jake slammed this ball home with authority. I had been listening to the crowd behind me for much of the fourth quarter as the expectant fans kept asking themselves, "When's Jake going to dunk the ball? When's he gonna put on a show?" Well, Jake delivered. Look at those guys in the bleachers. The one in the dark shirt is the fellow who is now walking around with Jake's name written on his chest in sharpie marker! I'd say he looks pretty happy, wouldn't you?

This whole team of boys are so good together. From what I am told, even the young ones get treated like family. You gotta love this. This is why interscholastic sports exist. These boys have spent years together learning hard work, and sportsmanship, and team over self. The whole town of Winlock is proud of them, and rightly so. Way to go Cardinals! Congratulations!!

Being Winlock's tallest player, a high scorer, rebounding machine and general all-around stud, Jake often gets interviewed after a game. This is the first time I've seen the headphones and mic routine, though. Would have liked to have caught this radio interview, but I was 75' away taking pictures with my telephoto lens. Caught a few really good ones, but I'll only show you one. The rest are for his Mom and grandparents. They'll want to seen all 544 of them!! (Kidding. I think there are only 523.)

I did have to throw in one more interview shot. I couldn't resist this one of Jake towering over his coach and the interviewer. I've got to ask Sheila what she feeds this kid!

Here is the moment you've all been waiting for. Sharpie meets flesh. I told Jake if he's ever famous I'm selling this one on EBay.

I'll finish up with a cheerful family photo. That's Ked on the left, and the 6'6" bear of a man with him on the right is Jake's extremely happy brother Josh. Josh played in this same game, at this same tournament, a number of years ago, but his team came up just a little short and took home the eighth place trophy. Josh was thrilled to see his brother win this game. The glow on his face says it all. I don't think a brother or uncle could be prouder than these two. The whole family, in fact, was about as happy as I've ever seen them. We're all sorry it's over for the year, but we're looking forward to seeing where Jake goes to college and learning to love whatever team he becomes a part of. There will probably be some nostalgia for this special hometown team, but if Jake's a part of it, the new one will be special too. Congratulations again Jake. Your family loves you. Congratulations again, too, to the Winlock Cardinals Boys Basketball Team. You guys are awesome!