Players from the Moses Lake Tribe, a sixth-grade youth basketball team, smile for photos after winning a state tournament in Spokane last weekend.
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO/MATT AHMANN
Moses Lake Tribe players smile and cheer on the court with the first-place trophy from the 2023 Washington Middle School Basketball Championship.
Sports Reporter | March 23, 2023 4:53 PM
MOSES LAKE – The Moses Lake Tribe, a sixth-grade youth basketball team, recently took first place in the gold division at the 2023 Washington Middle School Basketball Championship in Spokane last weekend after sweeping through the tournament.
“A cool group of kids that embraced the challenge,” Tribe Coach Matt Ahmann said. “They didn’t back down from anything.”
The Tribe first defeated Arlington 47-43 in the opening round, then won over Bellevue (60-45), Camas (38-21) and Olympia (61-35) to set up a meeting with Tahoma in the championship game.
The Tribe changed up their defensive strategy in the second half, switching from a man defense to a 1-3-1 zone defense. The move proved successful as Moses Lake was able to come back from their 29-19 halftime deficit and win the game 52-39.
“We kept them scoreless for the first eight minutes of the second half,” Ahmann said.
Throughout the season, Moses Lake scheduled games and played in tournaments against older competition. The move helped Moses Lake prepare for tougher matchups at the state tournament and for their future playing careers, Ahmann said.
“(Older teams) were willing to let us scrimmage against them, and playing bigger, older kids, it made us a lot better,” Ahmann said.
“The cool thing was the older kids are respectfully embracing what we’re trying to accomplish in competing with them, and embracing the idea that these younger kids are working to catch them,” Ahmann said.
Players and their families bought into the long grind of the season, practicing whenever and wherever they got the chance. Whether it was in someone’s backyard or practicing over the holiday break from school, players aimed to keep improving throughout the season.
“The boys really bought into the commitment,” Ahmann said. “I’d look for extra gym space whenever I could get it, we put in a lot of time. Played three-on-three last summer to help us prepare and really learn the game.”
Between tournaments, regular season games and the postseason, the Tribe finished the 2022-2023 campaign with a 47-16 record.
“We got a lot of games in and found opportunities to play,” Ahmann said. “Scrimmages over in Royal City, wherever it be. We’d play anybody, and I think that really allowed us to get better.”
The Tribe played in numerous tournaments during the season, but the state tournament last weekend was the first one that they won. Ahmann said he believes the Tribe were the only team that won a state title that didn’t win a tournament during the regular season, though they did have many second-place finishes.
“I know there’s a huge value from society played on winning tournaments, but they bought into the big plan of ‘Let’s keep getting better,’” Ahmann said. “That’s been my motto all year.”
Ian Bivona may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.