Last season a great one for the Wenatchee boys’ basketball team. They tied with West Valley for the Big 9 regular-season title at 10-2. They were the district champs but lost to Mount Rainier in the first round of state.
Panther Head Coach Travis Williams said expectations are high this season.
“We have our eyes set on repeating as league champs and winning the district tournament. Those were both things we accomplished last season. Those are things we are capable of doing this year. That is the ultimate goal,” Williams said.
Losing 73-50 to Mount Rainier in the first round of state really stung, he said.
“Us as coaches, we were disappointed. The players were as well. I don’t feel like we showed our best that day. Mount Rainier came out ready to go and hit some shots on us. That is always disappointing when you get to that point and it is a one-and-done scenario. Not to show up and play your best is always disappointing,” Williams said.
The Panthers return a solid core of players, including junior Garrett Long (6-0), who was voted first-team All-Big 9 as a sophomore.
“Garrett is one of the hard-working kids I’ve been around. He’s put in a ton of time this offseason in the weight room. He’s really bought in improving that area of his game. He’s gotten a lot stronger. He’s a terrific player. I think he’s going to have a big year,” Williams said of Long.
Wiliams said they have a lot of guys that were getting their first taste of varsity action last season. A lot of those players are back, so that has set them further ahead. He’s seeing right now in practice.
“We feel like we are a little ways ahead of where we were last year at this time. Some of those guys are seasoned and know what to expect. I think that will be an advantage,” he said.
Last season, Wenatchee featured a mainly guard-oriented attack. This season, Williams is hoping to be more balanced with some interior presence to go along with their perimeter players.
“Chase Loidhamer (6-6) is back. He did a great job. He got a lot bigger in the weight room. Logan Nelson (6-6) got a lot bigger than he was last year. Both those guys grew a little,” he said. “We have some legitimate size in the middle with those guys. I think it will help complement what we are already bringing back perimeter-wise from last year.”
Both Loidhamer and Nelson are seniors. Another returning senior to watch for is speedster Nate Blauman (5-11), who was second-team All-League and on the All-Defensive team.
“I think Nate Blauman is going to have a really big year for us. He’s gotten a lot stronger. He’s improved his shot. He’s one of the more athletic guys on the floor,” Williams said. “We’re bringing a lot of guys’ back this year who were role players last year for us. They are ready to step up for us and be real big contributors this year.”
Other key contributors include junior sharpshooter Joe Dorey (6-0), sophomore forward Camden Loidhamer (6-3) and senior Logan Bailey (6-1).
Williams feels the Big 9 will be wide open this season.
“Our league as a whole was really young last year. There are a lot of teams bringing a lot of their guys back like we are,” he said. “Davis brings a ton of talent back. Eastmont will be really talented. They bring a lot of guys back. West Valley will be tough. They have the 7-footer and he creates matchup problems. They will be in the hunt.”
Anybody can beat anybody on a given night, he said.
“We found out last year at Eisenhower. We’re in for another year where whoever is most consistent on a given night and whoever is ready to go when the tip takes place is going to be the team to come out on top. It’s up in the air, in my opinion,” Williams said.
Wenatchee has some tough games to start the season against Mead, Chiawana, Southridge, Hanford, and Ferris.
When you play against Greater Spokane League teams like Mead and Ferris, you better come ready to play, Williams said.
“We start on the road next Tuesday night at Mead. That will be a great test for us. It doesn’t get any easier. We turn around on Friday and go to Chiawana,” Williams said. “We luckily get a few home games sprinkled in there afterward. Teams like Ferris coming in — those are great teams for us to play early on. That will give us a good idea where we are at the things we need to improve on to put us in a good position to make a state-run.”