Following a 2-10 overall season last year, in which it placed dead last in the 1A Evergreen League, Tenino boys basketball is looking to turn things around this season.
Now, on the heels of a remarkable football run where the Beavers won their first state playoff game in 35 years, there’s reason for Tenino to be excited on the hardwood, too.
Just like he did on the black turf, 6-foot-5 senior Takari Hickle, a first-team all-league selection a year ago, will lead the Beavers on the court.
Joining him as returning starters are a trio of freshmen who all started last year as eighth graders: 6-foot-3 guard Noah Schow, 5-foot-10 point guard Will Feltus and 6-foot-1 wing Austin Gonia.
Also figuring into the mix are 6-foot-2 junior forward Brody Noonan, 6-foot-2 freshman wing Tremaine Burras and 6-foot-4 freshman post Jack Burkhardt.
“Young core added to a big-time post in Hickle,” Tenino coach Joe Chirhart said. “Will be fun if we can play together.”
Chirhart got the first look at his team on Nov. 29, when the Beavers opened up their season by hosting Class 2A rival Rochester in the annual Scatter Creek Showdown.
The first-game jitters showed early on as the Beavers dug themselves into a 12-3 hole in the first quarter and trailed 17-9 at the half. But they mounted an impressive second half comeback, outsourcing the Warriors 20-4 in the fourth quarter to pull off a thrilling, 42-38 victory.
It made Chirhart excited about the high-energy motor and the basketball IQ of his team.
“I don’t have to beg any of these kids to play hard,” Chihart. “They love the game, man. I’m really excited about it.”
It’s part of a culture shift happening at Tenino. The football team is coming off its best season since 1986. The girls soccer team won its first-ever state playoff match two years ago. The boys soccer team won their first district match in 11 years last season, and their second state bid in program history.
The girls tennis team won its second-straight district title in April. The volleyball team notched a district playoff berth this season. The Beavers fielded their first-ever boys golf team this year, too.
“In Tenino, we’ve come a long ways, but in the past we’ve had some, maybe, mentally-soft teams that if it’s not going our way we’re going to pack it in,” Chirhart said. “But you look at it across the board: football, soccer, volleyball, golf. We’re coming to a point in our high school athletics out here in Tenino where kids are starting to do the right things.
“Kids are starting out-of-season work. Kids are committing to summertime, kids are committing to the weight room. It’s really starting to pay dividends. Kids are committing to playing multiple sports and we’re hoping we’re turning the corner of having some athletic success.”