Kamiakin Basketball Team Getting National Attention

Little known in its home state last winter until making some big noises at the state tournament, the Kamiakin boys basketball team is now ready to make national headlines.

The Braves, unlikely runners-up in last year's Class AAA state tournament, have been invited to December's Beach Ball Classic in South Carolina - considered one of the most prestigious prep tournaments in the country. The Braves are making their first appearance in a national tournament since 1982. Redmond and Mercer Island are the only other state teams that have been invited to the Beach Ball.

Kamiakin will open play against Westover High from Albany, Ga., led by 6-foot-9 super forward Dontonio Wingfield. If they win, the Braves will face Philadelphia's Simon Gratz, which some consider the best high-school team in the country. Simon Gratz is led by 6-foot-11 Rasheed Wallace, the best big man in the class of '93.

Five other teams were invited: Archbishop Molloy (N.Y.), DeMatha (Washington, D.C.), Shawnee (Medford, N.J.), Socastee (Myrtle Beach, S.C.), and Artesia (Lakewood, Calif.).

"People used to say `where's Kamiakin," said Coach Don Schumacher. "All of a sudden we're playing these big-name schools. Right now, we're really excited.

"We're shooting to do well. But we'll have to come back to reality, finish out our league, district and then the state tournament. We're going to come back a much smarter team."

The Braves are expected to be ranked among the top 25 in USA Today's preseason national high-school poll. Schumacher said the transfer of 6-foot-11 center Scot Pollard from Torrey Pines High in San Diego to Kamiakin attracted national attention.

"With the team we had coming back (the team returned all its starters) and Scot joining what we had, the word got out that we would be a good team to have," Schumacher said.

The Braves, from Kennewick, entered the 1992 Class AAA state tournament as the No. 1-ranked team, but few people outside the Tri-Cities believed it. Then Kamiakin beat No. 2-ranked Redmond in the semifinals. The Braves eventually lost to fourth-ranked Kentridge in the state final.

Pollard focus -- The spotlight has followed Pollard from San Diego to the Tri-Cities. His new Kamiakin team has benefited from Pollard's attention.

Just how much better Pollard makes the Braves will be revealed in a few months. The Beach Ball Classic, considered to be the best prep holiday tournament in the country this year, will be Pollard's second test against national-caliber competition.

"I don't think we'll back down to anyone," Pollard said. "We might get beat, but we're not going to let them have it. Even with my limited experience playing with the guys, I know we're going to fight hard."

Pollard was named to the all-star team at last summer's prestigious Nike camp in Indianapolis. Pollard said he wasn't happy with his performance, but coaches there told him he was one of the top players in the nation.

Pollard has visited Brigham Young, UCLA and Arizona. He plans campus visits to Kansas and Louisiana State.

"Right now, I'm keeping it open and I don't want to say much," he said.

Chiefs fall hard -- Two weeks ago, the headline in the Columbia Basin Herald screamed: "World's Most Exciting Football Team Wins Again."

Well, why not.

After going 0-8 in 1991, Moses Lake High School started the 1992 football season with three straight wins. Thrillers, too.

The Chiefs beat Pasco 8-6. They beat Wenatchee 7-6 in overtime. And then they beat Walla Walla 10-7.

Everybody in Moses Lake was excited. After all, the Chiefs had not been 3-0 in at least 20 years.

Then last Friday night the Chiefs visited Kennewick.

Final score:

Kennewick 70, Moses Lake 6.

It was 49-0 at halftime.

"One thing, Kennewick didn't run it up," said Moses Lake Coach Wes Hobbs. "They ran the ball between the tackles, giving us the opportunity to tackle them. We just didn't do it."

Three different Kennewick players scored two touchdowns each. Nobody carried ball more than nine times. And five players gained 50 yards or more.

Kennewick, now 4-0 and ranked sixth in the state poll, faces crosstown rival Kamiakin (3-1) Friday night in a key Big Nine Conference game. A crowd of 10,000 fans is expected at KHS Stadium.

Kamiakin lost its season-opening game at Eisenhower 34-27.

On a Kitsap roll -- South Kitsap, the No. 1-ranked team in the Associated Press Class AAA state football poll, has won four games by a combined 203-0. The Wolves' scores:

SK 56, Mount Tahoma 0.

SK 32, Wilson 0.

SK 47, Stadium 0.

SK 68, Foss 0.

Coach Ed Fisher's team is ranked No. 15 in this week's national high-school poll by USA Today.

The Wolverines play at Lincoln High in Tacoma tomorrow night. They're expected to cruise through the Narrows League, considered by many to be one of the weakest Class AAA leagues in the state. In his 19th season at South Kitsap, Fisher's teams have amassed an 89-7 record in the Narrows League, and a 148-44 record overall.

South Kitsap's problems start with the playoffs. Fisher's playoff record at South Kitsap is 14-12 - including two Kingbowl losses.

Times copy editor Jim Reding contributed to this report.