WENATCHEE — High school games are still a couple of weeks away but if you need to satisfy your basketball itch, the WVC Knights tip off their season with a trio of non-conference games at home this weekend against Southeastern University Puyallup and Fairchild Air Force Base.

Unfortunately, this weekend’s games are also the last time fans will be able to watch the team compete until mid-January — when they start conference play.

The good news, though, is the team should be fairly good. Head coach Jeremy Harden said he retained a few players from last year's squad, including third-year sophomores Nian Allen and Isaac Jones, and added some talented freshmen.

Last year’s team won the East Region with an 11-2 record in the spring and the Knights were the top-rated NWAC team in field goal percentage (52.9%) and 3-point percentage (49.8%). Defensively, the Knights finished the season ranking in the top-five in scoring and 3-point percentage.

“We’ll be able to play inside and out with both of them (Allen and Jones) and some of our perimeter guys, Sam Phillips and Jaylen Scott, who led the league in 3-point percentage last year,” Harden said Thursday. “We’ve got an arsenal of weapons.”

The key, Harden said, will be keeping the offense fluid.

“We need to be able to distribute the ball (because) we have a ton of talent,” he said. “We already have two future D1 players on the roster and we added Phillips, who scored 1,000 points over at Cashmere. It always helps to have a good local player or two, but being able to share the ball and find the open man will be huge. We have some size that’s not typical for an NWAC team, as long as we play together and rebound, everything else will take care of itself.”

The big incentive this season, aside from a return to a full schedule, is that teams will also get to compete for the NWAC national championship. There wasn’t one this past spring and the 2020 tournament was canceled after the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Harden is also hoping the home crowds will return to their pre-pandemic level.

“The guys are excited and hopefully we get back to the postseason,” Harden said. “It feels normal again being able to roll the balls out in November and it’s something we’ve been looking forward to for a month now. As much as people or coaches don’t think the crowd makes a difference, I think it does, especially for our players. It helps with the energy, and the guys feed off of some of that.”

The Knights have already played a few preseason games, but there’s nothing like putting the jersey on for the first game of the regular season.

“It’ll be a new experience for some of these guys and there is a learning curve when it comes to high school and college basketball,” Harden said. “But we have some guys that know the speed and athleticism it takes; it’s good to have a core group of players that have been to the postseason before and know how to weather the storm.”

WVC opens its three-game set Friday afternoon with a 2 p.m. tip against Southeastern University Puyallup. The Knights play Southeastern again Saturday at 11 a.m. and then close out their weekend on Sunday against Fairchild Air Force Base at 5 p.m.

Sports Reporter

Zach Johnson is a 28-year-old sportswriter from Lakewood, Colorado. When he's not covering local sporting events you can find him carding birdies at many of the state's public golf courses, biking the Apple Capital Loop Trail, or skiing Mission Ridge.

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