By Hailey Palmer, Puyallup Tribal News
Chief Leschi boys basketball senior standouts Thomas Dillon, Mickey Lara, Angel Oyos and Mikey Spino realize their time on the court together is coming to an end.
These four have been playing together since elementary school and hope to extend their run for as long as possible by returning to the state tournament in Spokane and bringing back a trophy next month.
The state tournament is scheduled for Feb. 28 to March 2 at the Spokane Arena.
Dillon said it’s hard to believe that it’ll all be coming to an end soon. “It’s crazy, and we just can’t believe it’s our last year together,” Dillon said. “We get that feeling of, ‘Are we ever going to play together again?’’’
Oyos said they’re all just trying to embrace the moment and enjoy what is left. “We’re taking it all in right now,” he said. “I don’t really know what to think. It all just happened so fast.”
Chief Leschi boys basketball coach Scott Halasz was a paraeducator at the Chief Leschi elementary school a decade ago before he became the high school’s athletic director. He remembers when his standouts were little boys at recess, playing football and any other sport they could.
Fast forward to present day and those boys are now the undisputed leaders of the Chief Leschi basketball team.
Halasz called them the heartbeat of the school.
“They were the original group that bought into what I was selling all along about commitment, working outside of practice in the offseason, training at your craft,” Halasz said. “They do that 24/7. They live it, breathe it, hit the weight room and all that type of stuff. Now, we’re just trying to write that senior storybook picture for them.”
Not only do the four excel on the court, they’re just as good off of it, and the kind of energy and approach they bring has spread throughout the schools, Halasz said.
“I think that’s what makes them special,” he said. “All the younger ones that are coming up in middle school (or that) are freshmen now, they’re all trying to be like them. That becomes a contagious thing through all sports.”
Dillon called the bond the four have created the best thing that could have happened for them.
“We’ve just created something special with our group since middle school,” Dillon said. “We’re pretty much like brothers now.”
With the regular season wrapping up soon, Dillon, Oyos, Lara and Spino are looking to guide the Warriors to a second consecutive league title, but also a deep run in the postseason.
Considered undersized by most standards, with no traditional big body down low in the post, the Warriors have embraced the underdog role that typically gets thrust upon them as a team of strictly guards and forwards with only three players listed over 6-feet tall.
They make up for their lack of size with a relentless pressure on every live ball forcing teams into turnovers. A great shooting percentage doesn’t hurt, either.
“I love humbling other teams with our size,” Spino said.
Chief Leschi made it to the Class 2B state tournament last year in Spokane, but the Warriors’ stay was cut short when they fell to Northwest Christian of Colbert by just one point in the opening round.
Having their season end on the first day of the tournament has stuck with the group and proven to be a powerful motivator this season.
“We’ve got to build off our mistakes, do better and just take advantage of what we’ve got,” Oyos said.
No matter when their season ends, the four know there is no more ‘next year’ for them. Their time is now, and that’s what makes it all a little fun.
“It’s definitely a little sad but exciting at the same time,” Lara said. “We’re trying to make it last and go further than we did last year.”
Chief Leschi’s playoff push is right around the corner with the district tournament set to start on Feb. 3.
No strangers to adversity on the court, Halasz said his team is built for the moment and ready to bounce back from last year’s early exit.
“That’s kind of fueling our fire to come back and make another run at it,” he said. “We know what it takes. We need to be playing our best basketball when February comes with the playoffs and the district tournament.”
The Warriors’ remaining schedule can be found at www.pacificathletics.org/team/?schoolid=104&sportid=3#tab.