By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News
The Tulalip Heritage boys basketball team finished a hard fought regular season with a (12-6) record. Having won seven of their final eight games, the Hawks earned a high seed in the NW1B District playoffs and the right to host a playoff game.
On Saturday, February 3, family and friends lined the bleachers of Francy J. Sheldon gymnasium to cheer on their local teenage hoopers as they hosted the (7-14) Concrete Lions. This would be the third meeting between Tulalip and Concrete, with both getting a W on their home court previously.
It was a pressure-filled 1st quarter as the Hawks came out tight in the opening minutes of their first playoff game. Senior guard Chano Guzman did his best to set the tone offensively with his usual attacking style. He knocked down two 3-pointers and three middy’s to score 12 points in the 1st. With 2:15 to play in the 1st quarter, the score was tied 14-14. The Lions were able to keep pace by hitting 3-pointers of their own and capitalizing on their bigger front-line players securing offensive rebounds and put back buckets.
Concrete continued their overachieving play to take their first lead of the game 20-18 early in the 2nd quarter. It would be a super short-lived lead though as it seemed to spark Tulalip’s competitive fire. Fueled by their unrelenting pressure defensively, the boys forced Concrete into one turnover after another. Each seemingly leading to transition layup or high percentage shot. Six Hawks players scored down the stretch before halftime, then freshman guard J.J. Gray caught fire in the 2nd half.
After the Hawks went down 18-20 early in the 2nd quarter, they used stifling defense and a diverse offensive attack to go an incredible 38-8 run that spanned to late in the 3rd quarter. Now up big 56-28, head coach Shawn Sanchey used the comfortable lead to insert his bench to the cheer of the crowd.
Nearly every shot by a reserve player received a little roar of anticipation from the crowd and benched starters, who were more than eager to see their brethren get a playoff bucket. Final score was a whopping 72-49 win. The Hawks were led in scoring by J.J.’s 25 points and Chano’s 22 points, while seven of their teammates also got into the box score.
After the game, Coach Shawn shared his thoughts on the playoff W. “Having played Concrete twice before, we had a good idea on what we’d see from them and which areas we really needed to prioritize. The first two games, we weren’t at full strength either, so that was a benefit this time around knowing we were at full strength.
“It was impressive to see one of our senior leaders on the team, Chano, rise to the occasion early with his on-ball defense and timely buckets. He’s been a part of our Heritage program for a few years now and has the experience needed to keep our team together in tough moments and set the tone for us.”
Lastly, Coach Shawn added the significance of his starters taking control of the game and building the big lead so that their teammates could get some court time. “I tell the boys every game that they owe to the game and their team to work hard each quarter so the whole team gets a chance to play. Everyone, starters and bench players, works super hard and grinds every practice to get us here, so it’s only fair that we work hard in games like this to get our whole team some court time.”