Tahoma’s boys hoops squad making a lot of noise in the SPSL North division

Tahoma’s Paul Loranger battles with Kentwood’s Terence Grady Nov. 30 in a contest the Bears ran away with to start league play. Tahoma looks to have a memorable season.  - James Kielland, Kent Photo Survey
Tahoma’s Paul Loranger battles with Kentwood’s Terence Grady Nov. 30 in a contest the Bears ran away with to start league play. Tahoma looks to have a memorable season.
— image credit: James Kielland, Kent Photo Survey

There’s something different about the Tahoma boys basketball team this year.

Ethan McCormack, one of four seniors on the Bears squad, said classmates and teachers are talking to him about their games.

“The biggest difference is there a buzz, a sense of community,” McCormack said. “Coach (Brian) Davis contributed to that but this group has played together for a while. It’s all meshing and clicking, so it’s nice.”

Davis, who is in his first year at Tahoma after spending the previous two season at Kentwood, can’t say enough good things about this group of players.

“People have got to understand how fun it is to watch a group of great guys that play basketball together,” Davis said. “They share the ball and they really understand what playing for each other is all about — that’s special.”

Evidence of the difference about this team was clear when Tahoma destroyed Kentwood on the road in the South Puget Sound League North opener Nov. 30.

“It was definitely big for all of us knowing they’re our cross town rivals,” said senior point guard Dominic Smith. “I think it told the rest of the league … we’re here and ready to take it to you in your own home.”

Smith said he’s noticed the different vibe around the Tahoma boys hoops team, too.

“It’s our new attitude,” Smith said. “We definitely have a new outlook on what we can do this year, our outlook as a family and as a team.”

Senior center Paul Loranger, who is 6-foot-11, explained his take on the changes which have propelled Tahoma to a 4-2 record in league heading into winter break.

“The approach that we have this year is far different than previous seasons,” Loranger said. “I think we’ll be more successful this year. Our chemistry is better. We’ve always been skilled on the court but we’ve never been this close off the court.”

This new feel to the program was also evident in the way the community supported the team in that first game against Kentwood. Hundreds of Tahoma fans showed up sporting blue and gold, bursting with Bears pride, who chanted “Tahoma Power” as time expired, over the Kentwood fans who also showed up en masse to pack the gym.

Smith said the Bears can’t take that for granted, though.

“It feels really good especially to know that people are coming out to support us,” Smith said. “But, it just means that we’ve got to work hard to give them something to watch.”

Loranger said Kentwood beat Tahoma in the first summer league game. A week later, Tahoma won, and that victory was sweet. That’s when the Bears began to understand what they had. Then beating Kentwood in the first league game was all the better.

“It was good winning at Kentwood,” Loranger said. “That’s my favorite memory of high school basketball so far.”

Still, there’s quite a bit of basketball left to be played, and Tahoma had a pair of tough losses to Mount Rainier and Kent-Meridian that brought the Bears back to earth.

“I just don’t think we were all ready,” Loranger said of the Kent-Meridian game. “We responded in the second half.”

The Royals won that game on a buzzer beater tip in by Martel Taylor-Barone in what was a frenetic fourth quarter. The Bears fought back from a halftime deficit with a 9-0 run to start the third quarter, but, it may have been too late.

Tahoma’s players learned from that experience.

“We didn’t start very well,” McCormack said. “It looked like it took us a little bit of time to get into a rhythm. You’ve got to come out with your A game from the tip.”

McCormack had five three-pointers in that loss, including a late game trey which tied it up at 51-51 with less than 10 seconds on the clock.

Smith said Tahoma was flat in the first quarter. From then on, he said, they realized that couldn’t happen again.

“We win in the first quarter, not the last two minutes of the fourth quarter,” Smith said. “It’s making sure we come out strong and staying consistent. We know what we’re capable of.”

With the chemistry Tahoma has, Smith said, all five guys on the floor can be on the same page, can dance with moves only they know which then leads to success: points scored, defensive plays made and wins.

That could translate to the most successful season the Tahoma boys have had in a while. The Bears haven’t gone to state since 1997. This group wants to change that, Smith said.

“As a senior, I would like to see us win the league title,” Smith said. “If we bring what we brought against Kentwood, I think we can do that. And I’d like us to make a run at the state title in the Tacoma Dome in March.”

Loranger said it’s important to focus on the here and now.

“We just don’t need to get ahead of ourselves,” Loranger said. “Right now, my goal is just making the playoffs.”

McCormack said if the team prepares one practice and one game at a time, works on the little things, that big goal of getting to state will come.

“We’re looking at the short term,” McCormack said. “We want to become better at every practice and every game. You can’t look at it big picture. You’ve just got to take it one step at a time.”

Still, McCormack wants other teams to take note of what’s going at Tahoma this year.

“We’re here for real this time,” McCormack said. “It’s real this year. It’s different. You can feel it. There’s something in the air.”


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