By Joe Slye
Kennedy Catholic Boys’ Basketball Shows Improved Play but Disappointed with Results.
The Kennedy Catholic Lancers are a young team. They started the season missing several players who were still involved with the football team’s runner-up state championship season. The first four weeks of the season had two games canceled due to weather, and the team started with four sophomores in games played. Finally, in mid-December, the entire team was together. Game by game, the improved play was noticeable. Excitement for the 2023 part of the season was high. The first game in 2023 was a hard-fought win! Things were on the upswing; then the excitement faded slightly as the next four games were losses.
The parts and pieces are coming together. Turnovers are still the one glaring stat in each win or loss. Currently, the Lancers are averaging 23 turnovers per game on a four-game losing streak and are only creating 15. The game is a win or a close loss when the team minimizes turnovers. They have no problem making their shots; the Lancer shooting percentage is as good as most opponents. One interesting stat is in free throw attempts. Kennedy Catholic is averaging just 12 free throw attempts per game for the season, to 18 for the other teams. The difference could be that the Lancers are not a dominant team “in-the-paint” where fouls are called from the jostling of the players under the hoop. Opponents average 31 points from in the paint to just 23 for the Lancers.
A few weeks ago, Coach Caldwell had some concerns about adhering to the team’s SCRAP motto (Sprint, Communicate, Rebound, Attack the paint, Protect the paint). He commented, “our execution of SCRAP right now is not where it needs to be.” The games in January have reflected improved hustle and playing together as a team, but there is always room for improvement. League-wide, the teams at the top of the standings tend to have rosters heavy on senior-year players. Kentridge has 11 seniors, Federal Way 8, Tahoma 6, and Auburn 6. If the senior class is thin, the junior class is more dominant. Tahoma has 7 juniors and Beamer 8 with only 3 seniors. Kennedy Catholic has 3 seniors, 2 juniors, 6 sophomores, and 1 freshman. This definitely is a young, developing Lancer team.
The North Puget Sound League Basketball standings are taking shape. The league combines the 3A/4A teams and plays a schedule where the 14 teams play each other. Auburn, Todd Beamer, and Auburn Mountainview are the leading 3A teams. Federal Way, Tahoma, Kentridge, and Kentwood are tops on the 4A side. The current Max Prep rankings have three NPSL teams in their top 25 for the State of Washington 3A, with Auburn at #6, Todd Beamer at #21, and Auburn Mountainview at #23. On the 4A side, they have Federal Way #1, Kentridge #7, Tahoma #9, and Kentwood #16. For the combined all-state rankings, Max Prep has 4A Federal Way as the #2 team behind 3A Garfield.
Recent Kennedy Catholic game action included the following:
Thomas Jefferson, January 5: The Kennedy Catholic Lancers picked up their first win of 2023 against the Raiders in a close 55-52 contest. 40 of the 55 points came from three players: 18 from sophomore Taylor Mwale, 13 from sophomore Lorenzo Garcia, and 9 from senior Maclane Watkins. (Mwale is back in the lineup after missing six games. He is adding points, height, and quickness to the player rotations.) Trailing 18-11 at the end of the first quarter, 30-22 at halftime, and 42-36 at the end of the third quarter, things did not look good for the Lancers. However, they outscored the Raiders 19-10 in the fourth quarter and pulled away for the victory (another game where Kennedy Catholic had fewer turnovers than the other team, and they picked up the win).
Todd Beamer, January 7: Beamer was the better team in this game, but the Lancers made them earn the victory. Late in the third quarter, with the score tied 48-48, Beamer went on a 12-point run. By the end of three quarters they led 60-48 and were in control. Kennedy Catholic outscored them 21-17 in the fourth quarter, but it was not enough to get a win. The Lancers were generous by giving up 22 turnovers to just 9 from the Titans. The 22 turnovers resulted in 29 points to just 8 points for the Lancers from their forced turnovers. Kennedy Catholic made up some turnover discrepancies by shooting 10 for 21 on 3-point shots and holding Beamer to just 4 for 32 on their threes. With balanced scoring for the Lancers, 51 of the Lancer’s 69 points came from four sophomore players: Brady Wong, 12, Lorenzo Garcia, 19, Kaden Truong, 8, and Taylor Mwale, 12. Senior Maclane Watkins also added 10 points.
Auburn, January 10: One of the best teams the Lancers will face all year, the Trojans dominated from the beginning and won easily 76-25. After one quarter, Auburn was ahead 35-2, and the game was decided. Once again, turnovers were against the Lancers, who had 29 to just 9 for Auburn. Those turnovers turned into 27 Auburn points to just 2 for the Lancers. However, it was more than just turnovers. A talented and experienced team with 6 seniors and 4 juniors, Auburn is ranked #6 in the Max Prep 3A ratings. They showed what a good team can do. The Trojans will represent the NPSL well in the state tournament.
Auburn Mountainview, January 13: Kennedy Catholic fell behind by 18 at the half, and they could never make up any ground, losing this game 59-40. A week earlier, the Wong, Garcia, Truong, and Mwale group of sophomores scored a combined 51 points. This night, they combined for just 13 points. Auburn Mountainview is one of the better 3A teams in the NPSL league. An experienced team with 4 seniors and 5 juniors, they shut down the usually productive Lancer 3-point shooting. Kennedy Catholic had one of its best weapons disabled, hitting just 1 of 22 3-point shots. Other stats were fairly even between the two teams. Even turnovers were close, with 24 for the Lancers to 19 for the Lions. The Lions proved to be better early and used their experience to hold off any Lancer thoughts of a comeback.
Kentwood, January 17: (another one of the better games of the year for
Kennedy Catholic.) Except for a late run by Kentwood giving them a 64-57 win, the Lancers looked good. With a fast start, Kennedy Catholic was ahead 13-0 before Kentwood scored. The Lancers had a 20-point lead in the second quarter, but the Conquerors closed that to a 46-46 tie by the end of the third quarter. (This Kentwood team ranked #16 in the 4A Max Preps ratings.) The Lancers played better basketball than Kentwood for much of this game and held their own until the end. (This could be a game the team needed to turn the corner for more success the rest of this season and next year.)
Next up for the Lancers are four games to close out the 2022-23 season. Home games against Decatur on January 24 and Mount Rainier on January 30, teams with similar records and performance this season. The Lancers should give these teams all they can handle. An away-game on January 27 at Tahoma and the final game at home on February 2 against Kentridge will be big challenges. These teams are ranked #9 and #7 in the Max Preps 4A rankings and are battling for spots in the conference standings and the state tournament. These closing games of the season will give us a good look at the Lancer team’s progress this season, and a peek at what might be possible next year.