Sehome's defense spearheaded by strong guard play

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDFebruary 27, 2014 

Bellingham's Dante Check has his shot blocked by Sehome's Tanner Clark, right, as Sehome took on Bellingham in boys' basketball on Friday, Jan. 24, 2014 in Bellingham.

ANDY BRONSON — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

Calculated chaos may be the best way to describe Sehome's defense.

The Mariners are meticulous in their pursuit to cause turnovers, and their efforts often lead to mass disorder and confusion.

Defensive importance is reiterated by every basketball coach, but it takes a wealth of dedication to successfully run Sehome's hectic, frenetic style.

"Defense is something we definitely drill every day," Mariners guard Tanner Clark said. "It's something that is just taught, to always hustle and that the ball needs to be ours. Right when you come to Sehome, it's taught to you. You just kind of live it. Live it and love it."

The Mariners will look to unleash their gritty defense when they make the long trek south to play perennial power Mark Morris during the regional round of the Class 2A State Tournament at 4 p.m. Saturday, March 1, at W.F. West High School in Chehalis.

Sehome (17-7) has thrived on its presses, traps and trademark high-energy 2-3 zone this winter. The Mariners have become known for flustering opponents with weak ball handlers and have limited teams to 54.2 points per game.

Sehome hasn't always played that way, though. Coach AJ LaBree said he implemented the Mariners' current defense in 2008 when a crop of long, talented athletes came through the program.

He's run the current defensive system since, and the Mariners have enjoyed much of their success thanks to its principles.

"Coach LaBree says at tryouts he's not looking for offense, he's looking for guys who are going to work their butt off on defense. Defense is first," Sehome guard Leif Anderson said.

And the Mariners aren't caught off guard when they enter the basketball program. LaBree said he's worked with local AAU coaches in the past, giving them bits of information about how the Mariners run their presses.

It shouldn't come as a surprise, then, that newcomer guards such as Anderson and Clark, who have played AAU together since they were fifth-graders, have seamlessly transitioned into Sehome's lineup during their first major stint playing varsity ball.

Evan Miksovsky, Sehome's lone senior, has through his career generated a reputation as one of the top defenders in the Northwest Conference, flaunting his hardwood-diving, tip-getting, havoc-causing play with regularity.

But Anderson and Clark, as well as reserves Langston Engle and Marcus Montag, have joined Miksovsky and have adopted the Sehome defensive way.

"One of our defensive mottos is we always attack the other team," LaBree said. "We want to be taking it to them, dictating what they do in a sense."

Although Sehome usually goes 10-deep, Clark has given LaBree a strong floor general and has the ability to stay on the court most of the game. He's averaging 10.4 points one year removed from scoring 13 points in 11 appearances.

Anderson, a 6-foot junior guard, has provided a blend of stingy defense and strong offensive production with his sharpshooting from deep. Anderson is shooting 43 percent from beyond the arc and has tallied 74 3s, LaBree said. He leads the Mariners with a 13.1 scoring average.

Anderson enjoyed two of his top season performances during Sehome's postseason wins against Sultan and Archbishop Murphy at the Class 2A Bi-District Tournament. Anderson went for 30 against Sultan and scored 21 points against ATM.

Engle and Montag are averaging 5.3 and 4.8 points per game, respectively, and have given the Mariners a big lift off the bench.

"The main thing is they hustle and they really work hard," said LaBree of his guards. "They've learned how to press without fouling. They really make teams get the ball up court. We may not always get a steal, but we might make them take eight or nine seconds."

The key to Sehome's ability to play its defense at such a high level, besides solid athletes, is team depth.

Ten players have seen the court in 16 of the Mariners' 24 games, and Anderson said there's many positives that come with having a deep bench.

"You never know who is going to have that big game," he said. "Anyone can carry us on offense or defense. It's good to know you have guys on the bench who are going to bring energy."

The Mariners are hoping to attack and take the game to Mark Morris (18-5) this Saturday, but facing such a well-coached team, LaBree said its imperative his club plays fundamentally sound and crashes the boards.

"They are really good at what they do," said LaBree of No. 6-ranked Mark Morris. "They always have five guys on the court that can play basketball. They get offensive rebounds really well."

Reach Andrew Lang at andrew.lang@bellinghamherald.com or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County updates.

UP NEXT

SEHOME vs. Mark Morris

When: 4 p.m. Saturday, March 1

Where: W.F. West High School in Chehalis

2013-14 SEHOME BOYS' BASKETBALL STATS

Player G Pts. Avg.

Evan Miksovsky 24 290 12.1

Langston Engle 23 122 5.3

Marcus Montag 23 110 4.8

Elijah Andrushenko 24 103 4.3

Sam Carroll 24 82 3.4

Leif Anderson 24 314 13.1

Duncan James 24 159 6.6

Tanner Clark 24 249 10.4

Steven Thibou 12 8 0.7

Logan Deboo 16 38 2.4

Leighton Kingma 18 49 2.7

Jake Albert 5 3 0.6

Kenny Brown 3 4 1.3

SEHOME (17-7, 9-3)

Dec. 3 at Marysville-Getchell W 51-49

Dec. 6 Nooksack Valley W 93-56

Dec. 10 Squalicum L 57-49

Dec. 17 Delta Secondary, B.C. W 76-29

Dec. 21 at Sedro-Woolley* L 74-67

Dec. 23 at Lynden L 66-59 (2OT)

Dec. 27 at Cashmere W 54-43

Dec. 28 at Brewster W 49-38

Dec. 30 Mount Baker W 80-53

Jan. 2 Anacortes* W 62-61 (OT)

Jan. 6 at Squalicum* L 48-46

Jan. 10 at Ferndale* W 56-42

Jan. 14 Mount Baker* W 59-46

Jan. 21 at Blaine* W 71-28

Jan. 24 Bellingham* W 79-63

Jan. 27 Lynden* L 63-53

Jan. 30 at Nooksack Valley* W 83-49

Feb. 3 Meridian* W 61-55

Feb. 7 at Lynden Christian* W 61-59

Feb. 11 Burlington-Edison* W 71-66

CLASS 2A BI-DISTRICT TOURNAMENT

Feb. 15 at Sultan W 85-65

Feb. 18 Lake Washington L 73-56

Feb. 20 Archbishop Murphy (at Mount Vernon) W 60-53

Feb. 22 Anacortes (at Mount Vernon) L 65-52

CLASS 2A STATE TOURNAMENT

March 1 Mark Morris (at WF West) 4 p.m.

Reach ANDREW LANG at andrew.lang@bellinghamherald.com or call ext. 862.

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