Vikings basketball season wraps up

by Jefferson Freeman

Sounder contributor

What a season for Orcas boys’ basketball.

It was capped off by an incredibly deep playoff run to make school history.

The Northwest 1B/2B League named Ed Lago “Coach of the year.”

“I was the seniors’ first coach in SWISH when the boys were little,” said Lago, whose sons Diego and Remy both play on the Vikings team. “To be their last coach in high school is pretty special to me! I don’t think very many people can say that. I feel blessed to have this opportunity with this group.”

Diego earned league MVP and was selected as a first team all-state high school player. The last person from Orcas to be awarded that honor was Vanya Bullock. Diego will be playing with the all star game on March 18 in Tacoma.

Other Viking awards include Adian Murray, first team and Tommy Anderson-Cleveland, second team.

Play-off game details

After an upset win over Neah Bay, the Vikings had already accomplished more than they were supposed to. But the Vikings weren’t done.

Making their first trip to the 1B state tournament meant making the trip to Spokane where they would be matched up against the Oakville Acorns. The Acorns were coming off a second-place finish in their district and had earned the eighth overall seed in the tournament. Anyone who watched the game would have thought the seeds reversed as the Vikings came out in control and never looked back. The game started back and forth but the Vikings maintained a clear advantage through the first half. Half-time flipped a switch as the Vikings cleaned up their few defensive errors and had the Acorns in the palm of their hands. Every player on the roster got a bucket as the Vikings took dominating control late to take a 72-43 win and advance to the last 8.

After a big win over Oakville, the Vikings were moving on to the State quarterfinals. In this round of play, the Vikings found themselves matched up with one of the state’s premier programs: the Sunnyside Christian Knights. The Knights had claimed 3 of the previous 5 state titles and would be potentially the tallest task the Vikings had faced all season. That would prove to be true as the Knights came out and proved a tall, tall task on both ends of the floor. While the game was close for the full 32 minutes the Knights seemed to be in control the whole time. They gave no life to the Vikings, who despite that kept one of the state’s best teams within striking distance but fell 56-47.

While out of the running for first place the Vikings were still in the hunt for some hardware. The loss against Sunnyside pitted them into a matchup against fifth-seed Moses Lake. The Lions were coming off a 65-35 loss against DeSales. The winner of this matchup would advance to the 4th place game while the loser would have to pack up their bags and head home for the season. The Vikings had no interest in cutting their visit short and made that quite apparent from tip-off. They came out with every bit of fire you could imagine, holding the Lions to just six points in the first quarter. An incredible defensive effort led the way as the Vikings had unwavering control by half-time. Joe Stephens was the leading scorer for the third straight game this tournament, an absolutely incredible feat from the freshman. In one of the best displays of Viking basketball to this day, Orcas upset #5 Moses Lake 67-39.

The final game of the season would be an epic Viking vs Viking showdown. 16th Orcas vs. 11th ranked Mossyrock, two underdogs who pulled off unbelievable upsets to get to this spot, and two teams ready to leave it all on the line. Unfortunately for the Orcas Vikings, Mossyrock had the early advantage, led by 14 points from Zach Munoz the Vikings established an early 26-11 lead over the Vikings.

Orcas was far from out of the game though as they answered with a barrage of their own knocking down 5 three-pointers to bring the game to 44-34 at half-time. Whoever came out of the half in control would have the game in their hands and that team was Mossyrock. In a game that had been all about putting points on the board something flipped at halftime and both teams came out focused on the defensive end. The 20 combined points in the third quarter would be the lowest out of any game the Vikings (of Orcas) played in all year. Down 12 going into the final quarter of the season the Vikings were faced with a tall task. Orcas gave it everything they had but fell just short by a score of 68-61.

Bringing home the sixth-place trophy is quite a feat for Viking basketball. It is the first time Orcas has brought home a state trophy since the 1980s, solidifying this group of Vikings as one of the greatest of all time.

Seniors Diego Lago, Aidan Murray, Matthew Eggenbger, Tommy Anderson-Cleveland, and Paxton White gave everything they had to push the Vikings to this point, but must now pass the torch on to the next generation.

by Corey Wiscomb

Sounder contributor

For a rebuilding season with a new coach and very young players, an appearance in the State Tournament was a bright sign for next season’s Orcas Island High School girls’ basketball team.

The Lady Vikings finished the season on a high point, playing their best team-ball during the playoffs and qualifying for a seed in the Tri-District tournament where they had two dramatic wins over Concrete HS and Lummi HS. Their run in the tri-district tournament ended in a 33-55 point loss to league rival Mount Vernon Christian, but Orcas had already qualified for a “loser-out” game in the first round of State play. That game would be against Willipa Valley High School in which the #12 seed would take a 30-51 victory over the Vikings to bring the Orcas team’s season to a conclusion. Orcas started the season slow but finished with a 12-12 record.

Coaches and players alike share the vision that this year was about building something, and all share optimism for the upcoming season. First-year Head Coach Jay Sack was candid in his statement that, “I hope I set a foundation for the girls team for years to come.’ While further thinking of the ups and downs of this season Coach Sack continued, “this year was a wild ride, kind of like a roller coaster, between concussions, having limited players, to make a decent run postseason. All I can do now is hope for more girls to be interested in basketball!!”

Sophomore point guard standout Ava Ashcraft spoke similar sentiments.

“It was definitely a setup for next year,” she said. “With a new coach and spending a lot of time on team building. This year was a ‘rebuild.’ I am positive about next year and really looking forward to it.”

“This season was a learning experience. Next year is going to be good,” reflected freshman guard Sofia Mahoney-Juaregui. “I think this year was a rebuild and we got to know each other better. Next year is all about working hard and playing well together.”

In the future, there will be a coaches’ meeting to determine which players are given the awards for all-league first and second teams. Junior Bethany Carter is likely to be one of those voted in for her outstanding play all season long, and had this to say about this year’s journey.

“The season was filled with a lot of perseverance with a short bench and injuries,” Carter said. “We struggled a lot in the first part of the year just connecting as a team, but we improved a lot over the course of the season. I wasn’t sure we were going to make it to State, so it was really good to get there. We want more, for sure. I’m really excited for next year. We have a lot of the same players returning and it should be fun.”

It’s hard not to let the optimism become contagious as Orcas hopes for an exciting ride once again next winter when the gymnasium lights stay on late, and the sounds of court shoes squeaking on hardwood fill the dark evenings. For now, November is a long way away, but the whole team smiles about what dreams may come.

Corey Wiscomb photo.
Vikings boys’ coach Ed Lago.

Corey Wiscomb photo. Vikings boys’ coach Ed Lago.