SK wins, heads to state

South Kitsap coach John Callaghan called it a pre-emptive strike on graying that started to permeate his goatee.

But he admits it was a symbolic gesture shaving off his goatee after his South Kitsap High School boys basketball team survived districts and qualified for its third consecutive 4A state tournament.

Considering the stress Callaghan endured over the last week and half, it’s amazing he didn’t shave his head, too.

The Wolves, who were forced to win two loser-out games during the West Central District tournament, earned their third straight trip to the Tacoma Dome after dominating Gig Harbor, 52-34.

Callaghan carried luck of the Irish with him Sunday when the drawing for the 4A bracket was held in Renton.

SK had a 50-50 chance of drawing No. 1 ranked Franklin for a 9 a.m. first round game today.

“It was going to be either us or Bethel,” Callaghan said. “Fortunately, it was Bethel.”

Not that Callaghan fears any team.

It’s more of the time slot the sixth-year coach hoped to avoid.

Instead, SK (23-2) will play Central Valley (20-6) of Spokane, the No. 2 seed from the Eastern Regional, today at noon.

If SK wins, it will play the winner of the Kentwood/Mount Vernon game tomorrow at 5 p.m.

If SK loses, it plays the loser of that game tomorrow at 10:30 a.m.

Though he likes this draw over what would have been a tougher draw, Callaghan said he has the utmost respect for all teams in the state tournament.

“These are the 16 best teams in the state,” he said. “There are no gimmes. I think my players understand that.”

The one intriguing element to this matchup is Central Valley is the only team Callaghan doesn’t have any tape on — though he was working on attaining a tape over the weekend.

At this point of the season, Callaghan said its more important to get your own team ready.

“I talked to the Franklin coach (about Central Valley) and got some insight from him,” he said. “But at this point, it’s most important to take care of yourself. They’re pretty solid and they have a couple of big guys. We just need to be prepared.”

Junior post Adam Bennett said drawing on past experience at the state tournament is beneficial.

“No matter who we play, I think we can beat anybody out there if we play our best team basketball,” Bennett said. “You do get more familiar with the Tacoma Dome, but every time you walk in there it’s a great sensation. It’s got a great atmosphere and it’s exciting playing there.”

The Tacoma Dome is famous for making shooters cold from the outside because of its deep backdrops.

Callaghan said that’s where experience helps.

“The T-Dome can be very overwhelming if you haven’t been there before,” he said. “That’s just another bonus for us because we have guys that have been there and they know what it is going to take to be successful there.”

Senior guard Trivone Curry said having a strong defense will help give the Wolves an edge at state.

“The key is our defense,” Curry said. “We play it as tough as anyone.”

Callaghan said his team is so flexible with its defensive schemes, he feels confident the Wolves can match up against anyone.

“I think our defense has been there all year,” Callaghan said. “What’s nice is that we can change it up a little bit.”

Curry is also a realist and understands the undaunting task of winning four more games.

“Our goals are higher this year,” Curry said. “We accomplished a lot of our goals this year, but now it’s time to go to state and see what we can do. I think we have all the experience we need. It’s going to be tough, but I think we can do this.”

Callaghan said he won’t do anything different to prepare his players.

Whatever routine he’s used has been successful thus far.

“We’re battle-tested,” he said, “and the guys are ready to go.”

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