Tulalip Heritage Hawks place fourth at state

The Tulalip Heritage Hawks bounced back from a close second-round loss to place fourth in the 2009 1B state basketball tournament in Yakima.

Senior Lesjar Mc-

Kinney led the Hawks through the tournament, doing a little bit of everything for the team. He led the tournament in scoring average with 23.5 points per game and assists with 4.25 per game. His rebounding — 52 through four games — was second best.

But it was a team effort that resulted in a 3-1 tournament output, according to assistant coach Dale Jones.

While McKinney was called one of the best players in the tournament by the Yakima Herald-Republic, “Kurtis (Johnson) did a great job, Keith (Davis) did. They all did. It was a team effort. They never gave up all year. They stayed together,” he said.

The boys — many of whom had missed the team’s first trip to state in 2006-07 — rode out first-game nerves Feb. 25 against Pateros, winning 68-33 thanks to a big second half when the Hawks pulled away from their first-round foes. While the nerves were an issue, Tulalip Heritage quickly adjusted to the atmosphere.

“It showed in our first game. When you come out and there’s 1,500 people yelling, it will give anyone the jitters,” Jones said. “It took a quarter for them to get going that first game, everyone had the jitters. But after that they settled down and every played well.”

The next day against Almira/Coulee-Hartline, the Hawks fell victim to hot shooting, falling 57-50 and into the consolation bracket. The loss ended the team’s chances of a repeat championship game appearance. But the boys rebounded against Wellpinit Feb. 27 as McKinney and Davis combined for 42 points to win 61-52 and ensure the team would not go home empty-handed.

The win over Wellpinit meant the Hawks would play for fourth or seventh place against a familiar opponent — Sunnyside Christian.

Sunnyside Christian was the team that defeated Heritage for the state championship in 2007, and that game wasn’t far from the players’ minds, according to Jones.

“There was (motivation),” he said. “My kids really had fun, even though it was stressful at times. They played through it and played like they had to at the end. They only won by four.”

McKinney had a game-high 29 points to lead the Hawks, who trailed Sunnyside Christian until the fourth quarter. It was there Davis hit a three-pointer that gave Heritage the lead and they went on to win, 56-52.

The program’s success has been good for the school and the team hopes to establish a tradition with the players returning from this year’s tournament, Jones said.

“Now they know what it takes to get to the state tournament, you have to play hard. You have to get attendance, grades and practice, in that order. If you don’t have those first two, you won’t have the third one,” he said. “It’s good for our community.”

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