If the Chief Leschi Warriors have forgotten what it is like to play a home game, no one is going to blame them. Over the last few weeks, the Warriors have turned into the “Road Warriors” as they have traveled all over Western Washington to face opponents at their own houses. With the last four games of this road run having occurred after the Holiday Break, the boys’ and girls’ teams have shown an incredible amount of resiliency, fighting through fatigue, illness and some very tough basketball teams.
Playing in the 2B Pacific League is a difficult deal for the likes of Chief Leschi. When the only other school in the area is Life Christian Academy that usually means hundreds of roundtrip miles are spent visiting the remaining schools in the league. When it’s in the heart of winter and weather is getting nasty, the biggest victory of any trip is getting the team back home safe and sound.
When there’s school work to be done and you are playing four road games in six nights, it’s going to test the best of the best. That morning alarm clock is going to be a foul beast for any student athlete who not only played their heart out the night before, but they also endured a grueling stretch of road that often eats up hours.
This road run began with a couple of short hops for the Warriors. The boys and girls teams competed in the Mt. Rainier Lutheran Christmas Class on Jan. 29 and 30. When the tourney had ended, both of Chief Leschi’s teams headed back home with championship trophies. The boys defeated 1A Charles Wright 70-55 to kick off the tourney, and then knocked off Mt. Rainier Lutheran the following night 76-65 to take the title. The girls crushed Charles Wright 51-26 on the first night, and then upended 1A Klahowya 41-34 to take the championship trophy.
Now it was time to start chewing up some serious mileage.
The teams headed to Lacey on Monday, Jan. 2 to face Northwest Christian. The Chief Leschi boys handled the Navigators, but almost let them back in it at the end, edging their hosts 67-65. The Chief Leschi girls had little problems besting the foes, defeating Northwest Christian 57-37.
While the girls’ team took the next night off, the Chief Leschi boys headed north to face 1A Sultan. The Warriors led by as many as 25 points, but without the calming hand of their senior guard Yahola Gower who was at home sick, they let their hosts back in the ballgame. In the end, they held on for a well-fought 61-59 victory.
Two nights later, the teams headed toward the coast to face two very tough Raymond teams. The Chief Leschi boys had to play without their super freshman Donnelle Irvin, who was wrongfully suspended for the game following a technical foul he did not commit in the previous contest. Without proper time between games to successfully appeal, the team had to play “as is.” In the end, Raymond outlasted the Warrors for a 65-59 win. The girls faced an even stronger Raymond team and gave it their all. The Gulls would prove to be too much though, taking the game 55-38.
The trip would be shorter two nights later, but the competition would prove much fiercer for the Warriors. The boys faced the number one team in the state at Life Christian, and while they had been looking forward to this game, there wasn’t much left in their own tanks for the matchup. The Eagles proved why they are the top-ranked team in the state with an 89-69 win. The girls face an opponent also ranked in the top-10. It wasn’t going to be their night for an upset and they fell 55-37.
After recharging their batteries for a few nights, the Warriors hit the road again on Tuesday, Jan. 10. This time they were bound for Ocean Shores to face North Beach. The boys weren’t in any sort of mood to mess around and led by enough at the end of the third quarter to play nothing but their reserves for the full fourth quarter in their 73-46 win. The girls faced a talented North Beach squad that wasn’t messing around on their way to a 59-32 win.
The road journey hasn’t ended yet for the Warriors. They travel south to Ilwaco on Friday, Jan. 13 for a huge matchup for both teams. The Chief Leschi boys look to avenge an early season three-point loss to Ilwaco. The girls will face an Ilwaco team that is ranked second in the most-recent 2B RPI standings.
While the girls are going to need to put together their best performance of the season to keep up with Ilwaco, the boys team is feeling primed and ready for the challenge.
“My guys are slobbering at the mouth for this rematch,” said boys head basketball coach Scott Halasz. “They’ve been talking about it all season… how we blew a couple different eight point leads to them the first time.”
Once this eight-game road stretch is over, the boys team will have traveled 935 miles, with the girls coming in at just over 900. The Chief Leschi boys are currently 10-4 overall and 6-4 in league play. They look like a team that should make a serious run at one of the 12 spots at the state tournament in Spokane. The Chief Leschi girls are currently 5-7 overall and 2-7 in what has turned into a very difficult 2B Pacific League this season. A trip to the districts tournament would be a great reward for the girls, and a win or two down there would be a fantastic bonus.
These “Road Warriors” return home to host Northwest Christian on Tuesday, Jan. 17. The girls tip-off at 5:45 p.m. and the boys tip-off at 7 p.m. Isn’t it about time to welcome these amazing student athletes home?