By Michael Carman
Peninsula Daily News
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A simple deduction perhaps, but when the Red Devils (17-2) have strayed from this formula, namely in their season-opener against 2A Sequim and in the 1B Tri-District championship against today's opening round opponent, Tulalip Heritage (24-1), they have lost.
“If we can play our style, which is good defense coupled with execution on offense, we have a good chance to fulfill our goal and get that championship,” Red Devils coach Gerrad Brooks said.
They did the opposite the week prior in their 68-66 loss to the Hawks.
“Looking at tape from that game, our on-ball defense wasn't there, our help-side defense was nonexistent, we weren't rebounding and we saw a lot of guys watching the basketball,” Brooks said.
“If we can clear that up we should be fine.”
Neah Bay took a step in the right defensive direction in Saturday's 71-50 regional round victory over Wishkah Valley to advance to Spokane.
The Red Devils harassed the Loggers into 21 first-half turnovers and 27 on the game to steadily pull away.
Even though they face a another title favorite in Tulalip Heritage, Brooks and his team are hungry for the shot at revenge on the biggest stage in Washington high school hoops, the state tournament.
“This loss has fueled the fire with these boys,” Brooks said.
“They are excited and anxious to play Tulalip, not nervous, but champing at the bit, ready to go and excited.”
The Red Devils are used to the bright lights of these bigger venues, as all but two players (Abraham Venske and Jongi Claplanhoo) were members of the state championship football team this past fall, and shouldn't be intimidated.
“This team, they look forward to the big games,” Brooks said.
“Year after year, it can be kind of hard to get them up for the regular season, but when this rolls around, they understand what's at stake.”
The Hawks are led by senior Keanu Hamilton, recently named MVP of the Northwest 1B League, and the player who hit the game-winner that felled Neah Bay.
Other Tulalip players to watch are O'Dea transfer senior guard Bradley Fryberg and forward/post Shawn Sanchey, who scored 19 against Neah Bay the first time around.
Besides the Red Devils and the Hawks, Pomeroy (21-2), a potential semifinals opponent, appears to be a title favorite.
Neah Bay tips against Tulalip Heritage today at 10:30 a.m. at the Spokane Arena.
A 6-foot-3 point-forward for the Red Devils, Josiah Greene has displayed much of the versatility former Florida Gators and current Chicago Bulls All-Star Joakim Noah brings to the court.
“It's a fair comparison. Josiah's a utility guy and the athleticism on that kid is unreal,” Neah Bay coach Gerrad Brooks said.
“He does work for us in the post, can handle the rock and his IQ is high.”
Josiah fills up the stat sheet for Neah Bay, and with his rangy build is typically tasked with targeting the opposition's top player on the defensive end of the floor.
When called upon, Josiah can run the floor as point guard for the Red Devils, harkening back to his time quarterbacking the football team to two state titles and two state 1B Player of the Year awards.
“Josiah is definitely a leader by example, but when he needs to talk the kids listen up,” Brooks said.
He's third on the team with 8.6 points per game on an absurdly high 68.9 percent shooting from the field (51 of 74 overall), and fourth in rebounds and steals, respectively, with five and 2.13 per contest.
Josiah also is third in assists, doling out 2.44 each time out and totals just under a block per game.
“He's an unselfish player that recognizes that you have to play as a team and elevate others in order to be successful,” Brooks said.
“Josiah has known this since day one of his high school career and he brings that to this team every time out.”
Zeke Greene like The Glove
Relentless, ball-hawking defensive pressure, a willingness to drive the lane and a soft shooting touch are the hallmarks of Zeke Greene.
“He just understands defense and is the only one that has started for me for all four years,” Brooks said.
“Zeke understands defensive concepts, help-side defense, can push the ball and score.”
Greene frustrates the opposition, dogging them up and down the court.
“He's a player that no team likes to face and if you had him you wouldn't want to do without him,” Brooks said.
“If you have somebody like him your team is already a step ahead because he has such a high motor and performs at such a high level.”
Brooks turned to Seattle Supersonics Hall of Famer Gary Payton as the player Zeke Greene emulates the most.
“When GP was in his prime, he was a lock-down defender and set the tone for those teams, and that's what Zeke does for us,” Brooks said.
“He's more of a lighthearted guy [away from basketball] but when he steps on the floor, its all business and he sets the tone for us.”
Brooks feels that familiarity with his defensive principles is helping his seniors to achieve this season.
“Our first year we got to the championship game, and they saw the system and they've worked each year to be more familiar with the concepts, and now they are more to be free and be players,” Brooks said.