The match ups embodied everything the rivalry games have come to be known for with the out of this world costumes (for coaches- dressed in a full-blown Batman costume that would make Michael Keaton jealous, and Mickey Mouse, sorry Rob, as well as the fans), the signs, and even the players with the “home chops” on their hair and appropriately themed warm up shirts to tie it all together. The energy in the house? it reminded me of the world cup a few years back with the vuvuzelas, except this was the Spokane Arena! Buzzing with the cheer of high school bands, dance teams, cheerleaders, and good-natured spaz! It’s a huge part of the reason Spokane gets the sporting events it gets with our semi small venues blowing the roof off with sky-high enthusiasm that the players thrive off of.
This game was a fun match up between Ferris and all of their outside shooting up against a very aggressive and in your face defensive Lady Tiger team. It proved to be a nail-biter from the opening tip. I have to say I was waiting for the LC defense to take effect and start forcing turnovers but it just never seemed to come about due to the poise and passing ability of the Ferris squad to break the press repeatedly. Brittney Johnson, Kaley Lenhart, and Bria Bowton, all showed why their names keep blowing up the box scores every game. I’ve got to give a small morsel of insight to the foot speed of Brittney Johnson, when she has the ball, she is fast! Aside from that what really stood out to me is Lenhart’s ability to get to the rim and score on contested drives. One in particular stands out when she was seemingly trapped on the right wing, crossed over twice and then drove between two more defenders on her way to an “and-one”. She looked as if she was toying with the top notch LC defense on her way to 22 big points hitting 4 threes, again! Now that’s not to take away from LC at all, “Special Kay” and Janieva Bates are beasts when it comes to on-ball defense! They are in your face, stripping, swiping, and bodying up the offense creating quite a chore for the average ball handler. I’m very impressed with the amount of coaching and strategy that has gone into the defensive end for LC girls and the way they hustle and fight shows they understand what defense really means in the overall realm of competition, that Defense is Offense!
The boys game in all seriousness comes down to experience and size of Ferris versus the youth of the Tigers, and it seemed to play out that way with “Saxon Sensation” Cody Benzel getting a steal and layup in the first 20 seconds of the game and then scoring again on their first trip down the court. He gets his shot off so easily its almost unfair. Although I expected Benzel and Rye to score their averages, what I didn’t expect to see was how good Jared Christy is. He’s bigger than I first noticed, listed at 6-3, and has a lot of game. He finishes around the basket strong, he has good ball handling skill, as shown when he went storming coast to coast at least once that I remember, he has good recognition of the game, and is just an overall solid basketball player. As far as LC goes, the Tigers showed some heart but seemed to be bogged down by the Ferris zone, which is likely the case with most teams they play. The “over-under” on Connor Hojnacki’s three-point total was 3, which was held in check even as he relied heavily on the deep shot, obviously not feeling comfortable entering the teeth of the Saxon defense. Isaiah Hernandez tried getting something going with some impressive slashes to the hoop and dime drops for open players but it just didn’t seem to pan out the way he planned. I liked the sense of urgency Adam Thompson showed, doing everything he could to make a play on offense and the defensive awareness of Bryce Westfall taking charges, once they got into the mix. Both of these players have some growth ahead of them and could become centerpieces for the Tigers in the future.