It’s hard to know what may have been if the Selah High boys basketball team got to play a full season in 2021.
Led by two-time defending CWAC MVP Noah Pepper, the Vikings rolled to a 13-0 overall record, beating four CWAC opponents three times each and also taking down Class 4A opponent Davis on June 4.
Coming back to beat the Pirates was likely the highlight of the season for head coach Tim Garza.
“They had us down by 19 points in the third quarter, but we were able to battle back,” he said. “That win really said a lot about our character and work ethic.”
Three more Viking wins came against Prosser, a team that likely would have challenged the them for the top spot in the new seven-team conference had there been a regular season. Grandview, East Valley and Ellensburg were also on the schedule, while Ephrata and Othello competed closer to home due to WIAA safety restrictions.
“Sweeping Prosser three times was big for us,” Garza said. “They were a lot like us, with a ton of senior experience and probably the second-best player in the league in Haden Hicks. But we were able to lean on our seven seniors and win all three.”
Pepper was again unstoppable this season, and he will likely earn the league’s top honor again when the selections are announced this week. The Central Washington University recruit racked up more than 1,800 points and 1,000 rebounds during his four-year varsity career, and also took 125 charges — a number Garza calls “insane.”
“We call him ‘Superman’ because he could do so many things and no one could find a way to stop him,” the coach said. “He really is a fierce competitor and he’s tough as nails. You simply can’t replace a player like Noah. He’s definitely left a legacy as a Selah Viking.”
Also playing key roles this season were seniors Jace Durand, John Zambito, Teegan Garza, Matt Quincy, Shad Smith and Mason Correia; juniors Jack Kuhn and Malachi Young; and sophomore Nick Zambito.
Durand, an East Valley transfer, stepped in as a reliable scorer for the Vikings and earned his coach’s respect.
“Jace is such a good overall player,” Tim Garza said. “He can shoot the three and dribble-drive to the basket. He also got us going in transition and played great defense. He was a great addition to the team.”
Teegan Garza, a returning starter from last year, continued to be the team’s sharpshooter, knocking down key three-pointers when his team needed them.
John Zambito and Kuhn filled out the starting lineup for the Viks, who were missing sophomore Levi Pepper (injured) and junior Cooper Quigley, who chose to continue training for cross country.
“This may have been my deepest team ever,” coach Garza said. “We played a nine-man rotation and everyone contributed to our success. They all knew their roles and worked really well together. It was a short season, but we had a lot of fun.”