ILWACO - If third year Fishermen coach Matt Blair has his way this year, the "I" on their uniforms won't stand for Ilwaco, but rather for intensity. Blair, whose team finished 12-12 in 2001 and came within one game of going to the state tournament at the Class A level, said, "I want to push the ball on offense and get as many easy baskets as possible."
It is defense where the coach really wants to turn up the pressure. "I want us to play a very physical game - use full court pressure the full 32 minutes - and use our depth and athleticism to turn up the intensity on our opponents."
Ilwaco should have the personnel to do what their coach wishes. "We'll likely start five very good athletes, four of which are seniors," Blair said
Andy Hudkins, Kyle Kaino, Ryan Cadwell (a junior), Dustin Starr, and David Thorne have been tabbed by the coach as early-season starters.
"We have a great deal of depth and I plan to use guys interchangeably to keep the defensive pressure on our opponents," Blair predicted. He said Randy Wiegardt, Adam Ellsworth, Tony Crete, Rocky Mirelez, and Ed Guelfi are all athletic players who could see plenty of playing time.
Garrett Binion, Tommy Inserra, and Ryan Gray are also playing well early and will be considered for playing time.
"Inserra could end up being our sixth man, you never know," Blair said.
Robbie Olson and freshmen, Jordan Williams and Dylan Wirkkala have been working out with the varsity and will add even more depth to a deep Fishermen team.
Offensively, besides utilizing the fast break whenever possible, the Fishermen plan on getting the ball inside to Hudkins and letting him either maneuver for a score or pass the ball back outside to the open man for an open shot.
"Andy plays like he's 6'6" and passes well so much of our set offense will revolve around him," Blair said.
The Fishermen are assisted by volunteer Paul Jacobson, Junior Varsity coach, Chris Hill, and C-squad mentor, Matt McKinstry.
"I think we will be in every game we play," Blair related. "We have had strong practices to begin the season and we have a good crop of returning starters and lettermen with experience to be able to compete at the 2A level."
Blair believes LaCenter and Ridgefield may be the teams to beat in the Trico League this season, but just like the NFL, on any given night anyone can upset anyone.
"The key to placing high in League will be how teams play on the road," Blair predicted. "Hopefully, we will be able to take care of business at home, also, because every team in our District will have tremendous athletes on the court at all times."
There are 15 young men eager to play basketball at the junior varsity level for Ilwaco. Sophomores include Ubaldo Sebastian, Ken Marroquin, Derek Yasunaka, Marcus Peterson, Jonathan Bennett, and Mike Patterson. Freshmen out for JV basketball are Mooch Smith, Joe Goelz, Nick Leonard, Scott Fagerland, Travis Ostgaard, Mike Huitt, John Hayes, Josh Burchett, and Phil Fox.
If the difference between winning and losing will come down to depth and quickness, the Fishermen have a host of kids just over the six-foot mark who can fill the bill. And of course there is that word again - intensity - that could ultimately decide whether Ilwaco achieves a trip to Yakima for the State 2A tournament in March.