‘We just battle together’

Bear Creek boys basketball team competes at state regionals.

Bear Creek’s boys basketball team is a feisty unit that’s fun to watch, said head coach Tyler Mendezona. They melded at the right time and advanced to the 1A state regionals.

It was tough going at first this season with a 3-6 record, but the Grizzlies left that mark in the rear-view mirror and finished 11-5.

“I think it speaks to these guys and their character. It takes a lot of character to be down like that, have a season that you’re kind of frustrated and disappointed and then completely turn it around. That’s just pure hard work and grit,” the coach said at the start of a recent practice.

Following a loser-out 59-49 victory over Cedar Park Christian at the bi-district tournament on Feb. 22, the Grizzlies played La Center on Saturday at Battle Ground High with the winner qualifying for the Hardwood Classic on March 4-7 at the Yakima Valley Sundome. Bear Creek lost, 74-49, and is finished for the season.

Against Cedar Park, Bear Creek 6-foot-2 senior guard Jace Blankenbeckler had 14 points and seven rebounds, 6-foot senior post Travis Roth had 12 points and nine rebounds and 6-foot-1 sophomore wing Nathan Shields had six rebounds.

Roth said the Grizzlies are prepared for crucial games like the Cedar Park contest.

“We went into it with the mentality of leave everything on the court,” said Roth, adding that during his three years with the program, “I’ve learned a lot about responsibility and being committed to something truly. Showing up every day and giving it your all.”

The team’s discipline and close ties on and off the court have brought the Grizzlies success.

“It’s pretty cool. It’s intense, but we love it. Sometimes we’re hard on each other, but it’s worth it for what we’re doing,” Roth said.

Blankenbeckler, who notched first-team Emerald City League honors, is the last in line of family members — including two brothers and a sister — who played at Bear Creek.

Regarding his brother Luke, Jace said his sibling taught him about the game and how to shoot the ball. Luke’s teams worked together well and Jace wanted his teams to do the same.

“I really worked on being a leader this year for the rest of the team. I just try to be a good example for the rest of the team. Give it my all for them,” said Jace, noting that three wins over crosstown Redmond rival Overlake were huge, including a 41-39 overtime victory in the ECL playoffs.

Senior Jordan Snook, a 5-11 post/wing, said the Grizzlies use the mottoes “Competitive Brotherhood” and “E Cubed” (energy, efficiency and effort) to drive and challenge themselves and elevate their games.

“We just battle together, we create brotherhoods that (will) basically last our entire lives, we compete against each other, we get each other better at the game,” he said.

As Snook glanced around the gym at practice, he said that he’ll truly keep the memories made inside those walls with him.

Mendezona — the ECL coach of the year — gets hyped up and emotional during games and is thrilled to take his first team to state after six years at the Bear Creek helm. He walked the state terrain as an assistant at King’s before he came to Bear Creek.

“I think it’s really cool for the whole community in general,” he said. “Everything we do here at Bear Creek is for the greater good of this community and our mission, and I think we’re able to now celebrate the boys basketball team.”

* Junior Morten Hansen, a 6-2 wing, made the all-league second team.

On the girls’ side, freshman Macey Huard was the league rookie of the year and made the all-league first team.

Grizzly head coach Tyler Mendezona gets caught up in the moment of an exciting game. Photo courtesy of Cindy McCahill

Grizzly head coach Tyler Mendezona gets caught up in the moment of an exciting game. Photo courtesy of Cindy McCahill