(Woodland, WA) The Woodland Beavers boys basketball team made history last Friday with their epic win over heavily favored North Kitsap by advancing to the final 8 for the first time in 39 years. After an uneven start the team has simply grown and come together at the perfect time. The Beavers began the season as a low scoring, defensive squad that simply tried to stay within reach and get a win in the 4th quarter. They began 1-2 with 2 straight losses to 1A La Center.
The Beavers would then put a nice run together for 5 straight including a big win over the always powerful Mark Morris. But then another roller-coaster few weeks with the low being a 26-23 loss to Black Hills. The offense would continue to sputter despite beating Kalama 34-31 but then losing 4 of the next 6 games with another 2 games where they wouldn’t reach the 40’s in total points.
Woodland would then put it all together and the offense came around where they would win 5 of 6 to clinch 2nd place with their only loss to Mark Morris in a tight one 60-56. But during this run they would finish with scores in the 50’s each time and 1 60-point total. Gone were the totals in the 30’s and 40’s and that disaster 23 point game.
Once into the post-season they had 1 set back dropping to Tumwater 54-37 in the District Semi-final. But during that game there was another big step taken with their 6’11 big man Bryce Mulder. He was matched with Tumwater’s 6’10 giant Weston Vandenhazel. Vandenhazel had his way with Mulder muscling him in the paint and scoring early. Mulder then began to fight back and seemingly came to the realization that he too can be a monster in the paint. Mulder has since been a huge force and in the North Kitsap game the favored Vikings had no idea what to do with him. Mulder and Tanner Sixberry combined for all 16 1st quarter points but the Beaver defense led by the 6’11’s straight up arms where the Vikings would literally shoot some of their shots into his arms.
Woodland would go on to dominate the Vikings it was never close in this Regional and just like that the League and District Champion North Kitsap’s season was over the Beavers are headed to Yakima in the Final. All of this comes under the direction of Head Coach Jason Buffum. Buffum is a fiery man demanding the best of his players while at the same time supporting and nurturing this bunch.
Buffum will point to Mulder and Sixberry as critical elements of this team but quickly says without the Senior’s they would not be where they are. Hunter Huddleston, McKay Flanagan, Hunter Raney and Christian Mendez are the leaders of this team. Buffum says each of them have the ability to take over a game but they have all bought into their roles and lead the team.
Huddleston can hit from behind the arc with the best of them and is the leading scorer for the Beavers but prides himself on stingy, shut down defense. Flanagan doesn’t shoot a lot but dishes and of course plays tight defense, Raney handles the ball and also dishes like a mad man while Mendez is a huge force off the bench so when Sixberry or Mulder have to come off the floor there is little drop-off.
The Beavers now will face their greatest challenge in the quarter finals against the Defending State Champions Clarkston. The Bantoms come in with a 22-1 record with their only loss a 2-point defeat to Pullman. Clarkston also comes into the State Tournament on 3 convincing wins including a revenge win over Pullman plus 2 blow-outs of 79-34 over Toppenish and then 76-47 over Renton in the Regional.
There’s no doubt who the favorite is and who are the underdogs, just like when the Beavers faced North Kitsap and that’s why they play the game because no team has ever been awarded an “on-paper” Championship Trophy.