Two years ago, Washington used a championship at Leavenworth’s Citizens National Bank Invitational as the springboard to a 22-win season and an appearance in the Kansas 5A title game.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
After handling the host Pioneers with ease Saturday in this season’s invitational final, the Wildcats hope for another campaign that ends at least as well.
“This group was sophomores on that team, so we know that this is our launching pad,” Washington coach Eric King said. “We want this to be our launching pad again — to win league, get on a roll for sub-state, win that and get on back to state and try to make a run at a state title.”
Dominant on the boards and suffocating on defense, the Wildcats rolled 62-44 on this night behind senior center James Jappa, who poured in 19 points and 15 rebounds.
“My teammates did a great job getting me the ball and, if I was double-teamed, I kicked it right back out,” Jappa said. “We just had great chemistry going tonight.”
Collectively, Washington, 3-0, owned a 53-22 rebounding edge, including 26 offensive rebounds, while limiting Leavenworth to less than 30 percent shooting from the field.
“We worked our butt off to get ready for this tournament, so we had a lot of confidence,” said Wildcats senior guard Kameron Allen, who finished with 13 points and 10 rebounds. “I’m excited about this season, and this is just the beginning.”
The Pioneers, 2-1, weathered an early barrage, but after back-to-back buckets in the paint by Jappa midway through the first quarter, the Wildcats’ lead never dipped below five points.
Allen and Jappa combined for 16 first-quarter points as Washington stepped out to a 25-16 lead.
The Wildcats, who outrebounded Leavenworth 28-14 in the first half, pushed the lead to 41-29 by halftime.
Opening the third quarter with an 11-3 run that bumped the margin to 20, the Wildcats played with the comfortable lead the final 11 minutes.
“We knew we had to keep our foot on their neck,” King said. “That’s something we talked about at halftime. We played great defense and didn’t give them any of those mini-runs to get back in the game.”
No worries there.
Leavenworth, which had rallied past Topeka with a fantastic third quarter in the semifinals, managed only six points as Washington’s lead grew to 56-35 entering the final period.
“It’s just like two years ago, but I think we can go even further and win the state championship,” Jappa said.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.