YAKIMA — They bought in and it paid off.
First-year Royal head coach Ray Valle isn’t a fortune teller or a psychic, but the first time he saw his guys, he saw the potential. He wouldn’t be much of a head coach if he didn’t throw them a bone with the yada-yada-woof-woof speech. But he knew they could do great things if they played hard and stood together under fire. That part he kept to himself.
It all proved true one early morning in Yakima. No. 4 Royal (24-5) got out to the early lead and rolled to a fourth-place finish at the 1A Hardwood Classic with a 57-46 victory over King’s on Saturday at the SunDome.
“This means a lot. It’ll take a week or two for things to really settle down in terms of what we accomplished. We’re just living in the moment right now,” Valle said. “I don’t know if it’s actually hit them how big this is in terms of where we were last year and years past. It’s pretty exciting stuff.”
It’s actually the third time in program history Royal qualified a team for the 1A Hardwood Classic. They finished second in 1976 and went two-and-out in 2001. This is the first trophy in 42 years.
“I told them in the pre-game to go out and have a great time. Enjoy the moment,” Valle said. “It’s our last game together for some, so I said go have fun.
“I told them I was going to get everybody in and let everyone enjoy the Dome experience. We were able to come out with a win, so it’s huge.”
No. 4 Royal took control early, 16-6 after one quarter and 29-14 at the intermission.
Owen Ellis finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. Isaac Ellis added 12 and Gage Christensen came off the bench to inject a little extra pop finished with 10.
Interestingly enough, they finished higher in the tournament than the team that beat them in the opener, Northwest School, which finished fifth.
It was a year to remember for a basketball program trying to reshape the culture in a football town. And, it all goes back to that day when Ray Valle stepped on the floor at Royal High School and liked what he saw.
“I didn’t want to say anything to bring extra pressure, but I knew we were a state-qualifying team,” said Valle, whose program hadn’t won a SCAC East championship since 1975. “I just needed to get them to believe and play together. Like I told them, if they trusted in what I had to say and my decisions we could do some special things. They bought in early and worked their butts off. It’s a building process about getting better every day, and that’s what they did.”
For seniors Logan Gilbert, Corbin Christensen, Isaac Ellis, Juan Ojeda and Raynor Beierle it was a great way to finish a high school career.
Royal 16 13 6 22 - 57
King’s 6 8 10 22 - 46
Royal - Angel Farias 2, Sawyer Jenks 6, Corbin Christensen 6, Isaac Ellis 12, Owen Ellis 13, Logan Gilbert 4, Gage Christianson 10, Carter Dorsing 2, Raynor Beierle 2. Totals: 21-50 10-13 57
King’s - S. Mcgaughey-Fick 3, Levi Bundrant 19, Eyon Zevenbergen 8, Taylor Schoenfeld 9, Hunter Reeves 7. Totals: 18-53 8-15 46