BRUSH PRAIRIE — The Prairie Falcons are just halfway through the 2016-2017 basketball regular season but they appear to already be hearing postseason form.
Prairie opened up a 27-point first half lead Thursday and cruised to a 73-29 victory over Hudson’s Bay in Greater St. Helens League boys basketball action at Prairie High School. The win improved Prairie’s season record to 9-1 and their GSHL mark to 2-0.
The defending GSHL Class 3A champions return nine players from last year’s team that finished with a 17-7 overall record and advanced to the regional playoffs. Coach Kyle Brooks, last year’s GSHL Coach of the Year, believes strong chemistry is just one of the reasons the Falcons have a good chance to “make a serious run into the state playoffs.’’
Prairie improved its season record to 9-1 and its Greater St. Helens League mark to 2-0 with a lopsided 73-29 victory over Hudson’s Bay Thursday night in a game played at Prairie High School. Video by Mike Schultz
“Team chemistry is a huge strength with this year’s team,’’ Brooks said. “I think the key to our early success has just been really good balance and our guard play has been really good. Our guys off the bench are also playing really well.’’
Of the nine returning players to this season’s team, seniors Greg Bernash and Seth Hall are Prairie’s standout performers. Both were GSHL all-league first-team performers last season.
“Bernash is an extremely athletic scorer that plays with a strong passion and desire to win,’’ Brooks said of the 6-foot-5 forward. Bernash has missed the Falcons last three games due to knee pain. Brooks hopes to have him back in the lineup soon.
Hall is a 6-3 guard who Brooks calls “a well-rounded guard that can score on the perimeter and in the paint.’’
Brooks points to his team’s diversity as one of its strengths.
“The team also trusts a strong balance of excellent guard play on the perimeter and tremendous size and strength in the paint,’’ Brooks said.
Some of that size and strength in the paint is provided by seniors Dwayne Stewart (6-7) and Ethan Rouse (6-4).
“Stewart has a strong presence on the defensive end and rebounding, and has improved his overall offensive skill set,’’ Brooks said. “Rouse is a team distributor and crafty team player.’’
In addition to the four seniors, Prairie has a strong junior class represented on this year’s team including Braiden Broadbent (6-4, guard), Logan Reed (6-4, forward), Kaleb Locke (6-4, guard) and Matthew Kogler (6-7, center).
Broadbent scored 22 points in Thursday’s win over Hudson’s Bay.
Another key performer for the Falcons this season has been sophomore point guard Kameron Osborn. The 6-footer had 15 points in a recent victory over Southridge at the SunDome Shootout in Yakima.
“Kameron is a fine score and playmaker,’’ Brooks said. “He is a very hard worker and he has put in valuable time in the offseason to develop as a distributor and scorer. He will be one of the top players to watch this season in the 3A GSHL.’’
The new faces on Prairie’s roster this season are juniors Dante Heitschmidt (6-2, guard), Josiah Nickel (6-3, forward) and Everett Buck (6-3, center).
Prairie has now entered the meaty portion of the GSHL schedule. Next week, Prairie will play at Mountain View on Mon., Jan. 9; at Kelso on Wed., Jan. 11 and at home against Fort Vancouver on Fri., Jan. 13.
The veteran Brooks has taken many teams to the state tournament in the Tacoma Dome during his tenure at Prairie and he would like to see this year’s team reach that destination as well.
“Our league hasn’t had a team that has made it back to the Dome in a while,’’ Brooks said. “Our kids definitely would like to get a chance to play in the Tacoma Dome. When you get there, then you reassess your goals.’’
Twelve teams will advance to the Tacoma Dome for the state tournament this season.