‘It felt like football’: Kaden Anderson, Enumclaw play a football-like defense on the basketball court
BY TJ COTTERILL
They wanted another shot at Federal Way.
They got it.
Kaden Anderson had 14 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks to keep the 10th-ranked Enumclaw High School boys basketball team rolling, this time surging late to beat Curtis, 60-54, in the 4A West Central/Southwest bidistrict semifinals on Wednesday at Puyallup High School.
“We wanted it bad,” Anderson said. “We wanted another chance at Fed. We’ll get them this time.”
Enumclaw lost each of its first two meetings against the now 24-0 Federal Way, which beat Union in the other semifinal, 82-62. But no team has played the Eagles tougher than Enumclaw, which lost 52-45 in their most recent meeting on Jan. 17.
And the Hornets have the size, half-court game and defense to match up with Federal Way. They play each other at 6 p.m. Saturday at Puyallup for the district title.
“We key on our defense,” said the 6-foot-7 Anderson, who said he’s been talking to Western Washington University, Northwest Nazarene and Montana State-Billings among some other NCAA Division II programs about playing basketball next year.
“We held a good team like Fed that scores 90 to 52 points.”
And they limited a hot-shooting Curtis, the 4A South Puget Sound League champs, on Wednesday.
Both teams were already guaranteed their spot in the Tacoma Dome, but these games are for district-title pride and a boost in the WIAA’s RPI rankings. Enumclaw is right on the guaranteed-bye threshold at No. 8.
The top eight-ranked teams are guaranteed a spot in the Tacoma Dome, with Enumclaw looking to make a return trip there, while the bottom eight teams have to play a loser-out game in the regional round of state. Twelve teams will play in the Dome.
And this win all but sealed Enumclaw’s fate, even with Curtis double- and triple-teaming Anderson in the post, while having a defender face-guard him the rest of the time.
“It felt like football,” Anderson said.
They dared Enumclaw’s guards, notably juniors Kale and Bryson Engebretsen, to shoot from the wing. Bryson scored 12 points and Kale had six. Sophomore guard Peter Erickson had a game-high 16 points and Griffin Webb added 10.
“We’ve been seeing a lot of that type of defense, honestly,” Enumclaw coach Terry Johnson said. “They’ve been leaving our guys open. What’s great is those guys are confident and they hit some shots early, but they aren’t forcing shots. They won’t take bad shots even when teams are playing that way.”
But it was evident the game revolved around Anderson, the senior who was named co-MVP of the 4A North Puget Sound League’s Olympic division alongside Federal Way’s Jaden McDaniels.
Anderson averaged 19.8 points, a league-best 10.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game during the regular season, and he scored 29 points in a first-round district win, then 28 to clinch a state-berth last week in a win over Kentwood, the defending 4A state champions.
Anderson didn’t start playing football until last year, starring on their team this year, which won its first league title in 21 years.
He said the experience helped make him stronger and tougher entering his final high school basketball season.
“I’ve been taking advantage of my size inside a little more this year,” said Anderson, who was fighting off a cold. “I just didn’t take advantage of it last year like I have been this season.”
He’s actually one of seven Enumclaw players who also played on the school’s football team, which might explain why the Hornets were off to such a slow start to the season offensively.
They’ve won seven consecutive games since back-to-back losses to Post Falls (Idaho) and Federal Way.
“I just think with Kaden it’s his mentality,” Johnson said. “He’s played with so much toughness and effort consistently this year. He has not taken a game off and it’s been a pretty physical year. But he’s been so committed. He knows that’s what we need for this team to be successful and he’s been so committed to making us successful and he’s been so effective around the basket.
“And he can step out. He’s hit some big 3s for us.”
But it was Curtis doing most of the 3-point shooting early.
Jordan Parker and Jace Paulsen each hit three 3-pointers as Curtis turned an 11-point halftime deficit into a 40-37 Enumclaw lead near the start of the fourth quarter. And Zack Paulsen scored a team-high 14 points.
But then Erickson caught some fire, with his wing 3-pointer off Easton Tandecki’s assist pushing Enumclaw’s lead to 45-37. Jace Paulsen answered with a 3 of his own, before Erickson hit one more to make it 48-40 with 3:53 to play.
Enumclaw used a 9-0 run to take a 12-point lead with less than two minutes left.
No team has scored more than 57 points against the Hornets’ defense this season.
“It’s a good problem to have when you have guys having a great football season,” Johnson said. “It just took a while for all of our guys finding their strengths on the court.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677