By Joe Slye
Kennedy Catholic boys’ basketball season builds solid foundation as the season ends.
The Kennedy Catholic Lancers won 4 games this year and lost 14.
By most accounts, that’s not considered a good year. However, when you think four sophomores were in the top five “minutes played per 32-minute game” stat, you get a feel for the growth this team made this season. Number one and two were sophomores Lorenzo Garcia, who averaged 30 minutes, and Brady Wong, at 25 minutes. Senior Maclane Watkins was number three at 24 minutes but only played in 15 of the 20 games. Four and five were sophomores Taylor Mwale at 24 minutes (but only played in 14 games)and Kaden Truong at 22 minutes. The 2022-23 Kennedy Catholic roster had 12 players with significant playing time; 3 seniors, 2 juniors, 6 sophomores, and 1 freshman. (We can see that they were a young team.) Four sophomores were the regular starters; watching their improvement was the season’s highlight!
The junior varsity team finished the season with 8 wins and 6 losses. Their roster of 7 sophomores and 3 juniors should provide some players to fill the spots of the graduating senior varsity players. A few JV players split their playing time with the varsity and JV teams during the season.
The season started with a jumbled roster as several players were still involved with the football team’s runner-up state championship season. By mid-December, the entire team was together, and the improved play was noticeable. Coach Caldwell found some effective rotations. The loose ends were coming together. Six of the fourteen losses were challenging games with just a 5 to 8 point difference. The league powerhouse-ranked teams had their way as Federal Way, Auburn, and Kentridge won easily by getting early leads and coasting to victory. Other middle-tier teams like Kentwood and Todd Beamer had all they could handle from the Lancers and escaped by winning with just a few points. The overall toughest challenge this season was avoiding turnovers. With only five games where the Lancers did not give up more turnovers than their opponent, they won 2 of those games and had close losses in the other three. For the year, the Lancers averaged 21 turnovers per game to just 14 for the other teams. Overall, the Lancers are a good shooting team with consistent scoring coming from three players. The team averaged 51 points per game, led by Sophomore Lorenzo Garcia with 15 points per game, followed by Taylor Mwale at 11 and Maclane Watkins at 10. Sophomore Kaden Truong and senior Zach Hatcher added 7 points per game played.
Coach Caldwell had some early concerns that took care of themselves as the team finally had all the players and their roles in place. As the year ended, the team had the scrappy, hustling mentality working. Reflecting on the young sophomore-laden team and the close losses, the team was close to making the playoffs. Caldwell said, “I think we have set a solid foundation for the program and what will take place in the years to come.”
Recent Kennedy Catholic game action included the following:
Decatur Gators, January 24th: The Kennedy Catholic Lancers picked up a well deserving 73-58 win by outplaying Decatur in almost all categories. The Lancers scored first and never trailed in this game. Sophomore Lorenzo Garcia was on target all night, scoring 30 points by shooting 11 of 16 on two-point field goals and 6 of 9 on three-point shots. Senior Zach Hatcher added 16 points on 8 of 12 shooting, mainly from close range. Two odd stats for the Lancers while still picking up a win…Kennedy Catholic had 18 turnovers to just 12 for Decatur; then the Gators were 19 of 24 on free-throws and just 4 of 8 for the Lancers. The Lancer defense helped control the night by limiting the Gators’ field goal accuracy to 27.6%. At the other end, the Lancer offense shot 52.5% on their field goals.
Nathan Hale Raiders, January 26th: A close game for 30 minutes, and then Kennedy Catholic let it get away. Nathan Hale led all the way, but Kennedy Catholic hung around always in striking distance. Tied early at 9-9, Nathan Hale was up 30-27 at half time, up again 51-47 with 5 minutes to go, and up 55-49 with just 3 minutes remaining. The Lancers were close but couldn’t get the stops or scores needed in crunch time and lost 65-54. Kennedy Catholic lost the turnover battle 22-15 but actually had more points off the turnovers as they forced and outscored the Raiders 20-17 on points off turnovers. Both teams shot 38% on field goals. Kennedy Catholic went to the free-throw line 23 times to just 13 for Nathan Hale, but the Lancers only made 11 free throws to 8 for Hale. A season-long free throw conversion rate of only 51% has been a weakness all year for the Lancers. Opponents are converting 65% of their free tosses, and opponents have gone to the line 18 times per game to just 12 for Kennedy Catholic. Sophomores Lorenzo Garcia led scoring for the Lancers with 17 points, Kaden Truong with 10, and Taylor Mwale with 10. Senior Zach Hatcher tossed in 9 points in just 15 minutes of playing time. Nathan Hale is a good team, ranked #19 in the Max Prep 3A rankings with a record of 15-1 overall and 10-0 3A Metro League after this win.
Tahoma Bears, January 27th: The second game in two nights proved to be an arduous task for the Kennedy Catholic squad. Add to that a Tahoma team that is 14-3 overall and 9-0 NPSL 4A while holding the #9 4A Max Prep ranking, and the Lancers were in for a tough fight. Kennedy Catholic was competitive to start, trailing just 13-11 halfway into the first quarter. Things quickly flipped; by the end of the first quarter, the Lancers trailed 24-13. By the end of the third quarter, Tahoma was up 62-34, and a Kennedy Catholic comeback wasn’t going to happen. The final score was Tahoma 71 and Kennedy Catholic 50. The Lancers had their chances but shot just 30% on field goals going 17 of 47 on twos and 4 of 23 on threes. Tahoma shot 43%, hitting 21 of 42 two’s and 5 of 18 three’s. The Lancers had 18 turnovers to 21 for the Bears but could not use the advantage here to slow down the Tahoma attack. Sophomore Taylor Mwale led the balanced Lancer scoring attack with 12 points, and senior Zach Hatcher added 9 points.
Mount Rainier Rams, January 30th: Kennedy Catholic started quickly, building a nice 28-15 lead midway through the second quarter. Then things fell apart. By halftime, the Rams had closed the gap to 28-22. As the third quarter started, the Lancers had absolutely nothing. They scored three points in the quarter, and Mt Rainier scored 19 points. Ouch! Only down 10, the Lancers struggled to regain momentum and lost 51-46. Shooting just 4 for 22 on three-point shots, Kennedy Catholic made just 36.5% of their field goals. Mount Rainier was at 44.2% and used the advantage to hold on for the 5-point win. The Lancers could not stop Junior Zach Luz, who led the Rams with 31 points on 11 of 20 two-point shots and 2 of 5 on threes. Kennedy Catholic had balanced scoring, with no one in double figures and a high of 9 points from sophomore Brady Wong. Senior Maclane Watkins returned to the lineup after a two-game absence and added 8 points in 27 minutes of playing time. Team leading scorer sophomore Lorenzo Garcia was off all night and was held to just 4 points. A tough loss for the Lancers…against evenly matched close-by rival Mount Rainier after seeing such improved team play during the month of January.
Kentridge Chargers, February 2nd: Similar to the Tahoma game last week, Kentridge is 17-4 overall and 9-3 NPSL 4A with a Max Prep ranking of # 13 for the state of Washington and # 7 ranking for 4A. Kentridge has 11 seniors on their roster. They are experienced and deep. The Lancers ran up against another elite team in the league that took control from the opening tip and never gave them a chance to even think of an upset. Kennedy Catholic was down 35-10 at halftime and lost the game 70-36. Only a little to rehash on this one, as Kentridge has the experience and talent to deserve their ranking. Kentridge forced 30 Lancer turnovers to just 16 of their own. Points Off Turnovers favored the Chargers 30-7. Kentridge has an inside game that scored 50 points in the paint to just 24 for Kennedy Catholic. Kentridge had a 45.2% field goal conversion rate to just 27.8% for the Lancers. A tough way to close out the season, but it does offer the Lancers a good look at what it takes to join the ranks of the elite NPSL teams.
2022-23 has been an interesting season for the Lancers. They grew up a lot. The football team’s success which kept several teammates away until early December allowed other players, particularly the young sophomore players, to take a step forward. They put their playing time to good use. The improvement from week to week and month to month was fun to watch. Everyone likes to see a player get a chance and be successful. The challenging part is being consistently successful, but this season was a great opportunity for this team to be open to new challenges, play hard, trust their coaches and teammates, and move their game forward. The following season could be even more interesting and enjoyable.