The Bear Creek School boys’ basketball team is back on the court, ready to deliver some big-time results.
“Our theme this year is B.I.G.,” said fourth-year coach Scott Moe, who, last season, guided the Grizzlies to a school-best 24-3 record and fifth-place finish at the Class 2B state tournament. “We want to act big, live big, play big. … First we want to become brothers in God, that’s big. And then secondly, on the last day of the season come March 7, we want them to still think that basketball is great, again big.
“We want to be big in everything we do.”
The Grizzlies, the defending Sea-Tac League and Western Tri-District champions, have plenty of big-time players as they prepare to make another run at a state-tournament berth.
Bear Creek is led by returning league MVP Jamie Meyer, a 6-foot-2 junior left-handed guard who averaged a team-high 16.9 points per game last season. The Grizzlies have two other starters returning in 5-11 junior point guard Kyle Blankenbeckler and 6-5 sophomore post Ryan Strandin. Another key returner is 6-0 guard Michael Davisson, a blue-collar physical player who will be asked to a do a little bit everything for the Grizzlies.
All four played on last year’s stellar squad and they are ready for an encore performance.
“We’d like to think that we got as good a chance as anyone this year to be a very competitive team in our league, districts and state,” Meyer said. “I think we’re pretty hopeful.”
Besides a strong returning core, the Grizzlies have some talented newcomers in Lucas Peters, a sharp-shooting sophomore guard, and freshman Lucas Fernandez, a 6-2 forward who has improved dramatically in the offseason. In addition, sophomore Josh Firminger is back in the mix this season after sitting out last year with shoulder injury.
“I think we got as good a shot as ever,” Blankenbeckler said. “We don’t have as much size as last year, but overall, I think we are a more skilled team.”
The Grizzlies, which ranked seventh in scoring among the 65 Class 2B schools last year, will look to light up the scoreboard again this season, with its tenacious transition game, paced by Meyer.
“He’s scores a lot of points in transition,” Moe said of Meyer. “He’s a big-time scorer.”
Blankenbeckler agreed that Meyer knows how to fill up the hoop.
“He shoots, he likes to shoot and he shoots well, so we pass him the ball,” Blankenbeckler said of Meyer. “We have plays that are set up for him to shoot because we know that’s what he is good at.”
Anchoring the inside will be Strandin, who had a strong state showing last season and has improved his game in the offseason.
“He’s bigger if that’s even possible,” Blankenbeckler said of Strandin. “He’ll be the guy setting the tone down low for us.”
Bear Creek’s up-temp offense will be complemented by its pressure defense. The Grizzlies boasted the second-ranked defense in 2B last year.
The talented squad certainly has the ability to build upon the momentum from last season’ monumental run, but they are not living in the past, reluctant to compare last season’s squad to this year’s team.
“Last year was great, but this is a brand new squad,” Moe said.
The players and coaches know they have a tough task to repeat as league champions this season. Tacoma Baptist, one of only three teams to beat the Grizzlies last year, joins the SeaTac League this season and will be a force to be reckoned with, Moe said. Seattle Lutheran, who lost to the Grizzlies in the state tournament last season, and returning league runnerup Evergreen Lutheran will also be quality league opponents, Moe said.
Bear Creek begins the season with a nonleague showdown against fellow Redmond school Overlake, which they beat 58-53 in last season’s opener. It was the first time in school history, Bear Creek beat the Owls.
The basketball buzz is in full effect at Bear Creek, which held it’s annual Green & Gold game on Tuesday.
“It’s showtime,” Moe said with a smile.
REDMOND BOYS’ BASKETBALL AT A GLANCE
• Coach: Jeff Larson, fifth season.
• Last season: 10-12 overall; 6-9 in 4A Kingco; finished fourth in Mountain Division.
• Turnout: 26.
• Sr. Justin Alexander, 6-5 forward: Returning starter hit a team-high 42 3-pointers last season.
• Sr. Will Ellis, 5-10 point guard: Returning starter is a good ball handler and distributes the ball well.
• Sr. Max Wisman, 6-4 forward: Low-post banger will provide physical inside presence and solid rebounding.
• Sr. Dominique Redeau, 6-4 forward: Big man is one of the best interior passers on the team and has “a high basketball IQ,” according to Larson.
• Sr. Chris Harrington, 6-1 guard: Started last year before suffering season-ending ankle injury. Slasher can create his own shots and is good defender.
• Sr. Philip Leland, 6-1 guard: Intelligent, pure shooter will provide the Mustangs with some scoring punch.
• Sr. Willie Gonia, 6-0 guard: Nobody on the team plays harder, according to Larson. “I really think he will lead league in offensive rebounds,” Larson said. “He will be a fan favorite.”
• Sr. Jared Alexander, 6-6 forward: Solid post defender brings toughness to the team.
• Friday, Jan. 9: vs. Skyline: The Spartans will be a tough matchup, but a win will be a big boost for the Mustangs.
• Friday, Jan. 23: vs. Issaquah: This will be a litmus test for the Mustangs, who hope to be in the playoff mix this season.
• Friday, Feb. 13: vs. Eastlake: This one is always a must-see. It’s the final regular-season game and there could be a lot of playoff implications with this showdown.
DID YOU KNOW?
Redmond has a talented senior class with eight players who have competed together for the last six years. “I don’t want the season to end,” Larson said. “I don’t want to see these guys leave. They have great chemistry and they know their roles.”
THE OVERLAKE SCHOOL OWLS
• Coach: John Wiley, 14th season
• Last season: 10-12 overall; 9-3 in 1A Emerald City League; finished third in league standings.
• Turnout: 28
• Sr. Danny Poplawski, 6-3 forward: Averaged 11.1 points per game last year; will be looked upon for leadership and more scoring.
• Sr. Chandler Hire, 6-2 forward: Third-year varsity player is a slasher on offense and physical defender.
• Jr. Hakan Yagiz, 5-9 point guard: Soccer standout missed most of last season with a broken hand; will run the offense this season.
• Sr. Boris Rosenberg, 6-3 forward: Big 270-pound tennis player will be a presence inside on the basketball court. “He sets the biggest screen in the Emerald City League,” Wiley said.
• Sr. Alec Pakzad, 6-2 forward: Sharp shooter is also a great golfer; he will play golf at Seattle University next year.
• Fresh. Dean Poplawski, 5-8, guard: Younger brother of Danny will provide some scoring punch off the bench.
• Fresh. Cameron Lui, 5-8, point guard: Great ball handler will provide depth in the backcourt.
• Saturday, Dec. 6: at Bear Creek. For the second straight season, Overlake opens against a fellow Redmond school. The Owls will be looking for payback from last year when the Grizzlies beat the Owls, 58-53, in the season opener.
• Tuesday, Jan. 13: vs. Bellevue Christian. The Owls will look to knock off Bellevue Christian, which has lost only one Emerald City game since it joined the league in 2001.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Owls have a 27-11 league record over the last three seasons. Wiley, who is the school’s athletic director, has a 167-123 record in 13 seasons as the Owls head coach.
THE BEAR CREEK SCHOOL GRIZZLIES
• Coach: Scott Moe, fourth season
• Last season: 24-3 overall, 11-0 in 2B Sea-Tac League; league and tri-district champions, finished fifth at state.
• Turnout: 27.
• Jr. Kyle Blankenbeckler, 5-11 point guard: Returning starter is strong ball handler and makes great decision in the open court. “He’s a pass-first type guy, but we would like to see him score more this year,” Moe said.
• Jr. Jamie Meyer, 6-2 guard: Returning league MVP is a sharp shooter and great finisher in the transition game.
• Jr. Michael Davisson, 6-0 forward: Hard-working player does the little things that don’t show up in the box score, but are instrumental to the team’s success. “He’s our hard-hat guy,” Moe said. “He brings his lunch pail to work every day.”
• Soph. Ryan Strandin, 6-5 forward: Will provide a strong presence for the Grizzlies down low. “We expect big things from him,” Moe said.
• Soph. Lucas Peterson, 5-11 guard: The top scorer the JV team will provide depth in the backcourt with his scoring and ball-handling abilities.
• Soph. Josh Firminger, 5-9 guard: Missed all of last season with a shoulder injury; sophomore is a great slasher and will provide scoring off the bench.
• Fresh. Lucas Fernandez, 6-2 forward: New guy on the team has improved “a ton over the summer,” Moe said and will provide more strength down low for the Grizzlies.
• Saturday, Dec. 6: vs. Overlake. For the second straight season, Bear Creek opens against a fellow Redmond school. The Grizzlies beat the Owls, 58-53, in last year’s season opener. It was the Grizzlies’ first-ever win against the Owls.
• Thursday, Jan. 15: vs. Tacoma Baptist. It’s revenge time for the Grizzlies, who lost to Tacoma Baptist, 46-42, last December. It was one of only three losses on the season for Bear Creek.
DID YOU KNOW?
Last season, the Grizzlies won the program’s first tri-district tournament title and placed fifth at state.