With a student body of only 111 seventh through 12th graders, it may not seem as though Cedar Park Christian – Mountlake Terrace could make a lot of noise, but this basketball season, anyone who dares enter their den will likely hear a mighty roar.
The CPC-MLT Lions boys and girls basketball teams are enjoying one of their best hoop seasons in school history. Combined, the two squads are 33-4 and each are heading into postseason play with high expectations.
And the success of the basketball teams is carrying over into the everyday student life on the campus of the private school on 54th Avenue West in Mountlake Terrace.
“We’re just really excited, as a student body, to see the success of the teams,” said Principal Al Carpenter. “It’s just obviously added to the excitement of the season and we’re looking forward to the playoffs.”
The Lions – playing in the WIAA’s smallest classification for state schools, 1B – will host district tournament games for both boys and girls basketball next week and are expected to make deep runs into the postseason.
The Lions’ boys team are 16-3 overall and can clinch the 1B Northwest Conference league championship with a win in their final game of the regular season Thursday, Feb. 2, over visiting Orcas Christian.
Lions’ Coach Scott Moe leads a squad short on experience but long on emotion and desire.
“There’s a sense of pride and excitement,” he said of his players.
Moe is trying to turn his squad’s focus away from postseason goal-setting and instead simply work on improving their own game.
“I don’t want to look too far ahead,” Moe said. “The only thing we talk about is trying to get better every day. We don’t have any control over how good the (other) teams are in the postseason. We may go two-and-out or we may go all the way, I don’t know. But we’re just trying to get better.”
The team is ranked no. 11 in the WIAA 2A boys’ Rating Percentage Index (RPI), but that ranking will certainly rise after the Lions’ 56-53 victory Wednesday over the no. two-ranked Lummi Nation Blackhawks.
For the Lady Lions, Coach Bill Kelley has led the team to a 11-1 league record, a 17-1 overall mark and a no. four ranking in the WIAA 2A girls’ RPI.
“It’s been a great year for this school,” Kelley stated.
The Lady Lions have been successful on the court despite having just seven players on the roster – and one of those has been out during the final stretch of the regular season with a knee injury. Kelley is hoping to have sophomore starting point guard Denise Widjaja back for postseason play, perhaps as soon as next week.
“She’s going to the doctor (Thursday) and we’re just praying, praying and praying that she gets the okay to go,” Kelley said of Widjaja. “She seems pretty healthy. She thinks she’s healthy, she thinks she’s ready to go. But she’s got to get the doctor’s okay.”
Beyond the court, Kelley has recognized how the success the school’s two basketball teams this season has affected the spirit on campus.
“It’s just vastly different than it has been in the past,” Kelley said. “We just had homecoming week – best school spirit we’ve ever had (with) best participation
… and enthusiastic participation. It’s pretty awesome.”
While success on the basketball court is a goal already achieved by the hoop squads of CPC-MLT, it’s not what school leaders are most happy with concerning the boys and girls teams this year.
The thing we are most pleased about is just their Christian character and the way they are handling themselves on the court,” Carpenter stressed. “Win or lose we are looking for integrity and character and just a great Christian testimony. And our players are doing that. We are very proud of them.”
If the Lions’ boys and girls teams can post strong finishes at next week’s 1B District 1 basketball tournaments and then the 1B Tri-District 1/2/3 tournaments Feb. 14-18, the squads could clinch for themselves a trip to Spokane for the 1A State basketball tourneys March 1-4. A caravan of spirited followers from the small school would likely follow.
“I’m sure there’ll be some busloads of people who are probably going to want to head over there,” Carpenter said.
Cedar Park Christian – MLT Lions postseason schedule
WIAA 1B District 1 Boys Basketball Tournament, Feb. 7-11; for bracket, click http://www.nwbathletics.com/tournament.php?tournament_id=2141&sport=3
WIAA 1B District 1 Girls Basketball Tournament, Feb. 7-11; for bracket, click http://www.nwbathletics.com/tournament.php?tournament_id=2142&sport_id=12
WIAA 1B Tri-District 1/2/3 Boys Basketball Tournament (if qualified), February 14-18
WIAA 1B Tri-District 1/2/3 Girls Basketball Tournament (if qualified), February 14-18
WIAA 1B Boys Regional Playoff Game (if qualified), Feb. 24 or 25
WIAA 1B Girls Regional Playoff Game (if qualified), Feb. 24 or 25
WIAA 1B Boys State Basketball Tournament (if qualified), Mar. 1-4
WIAA 1B Girls State Basketball Tournament (if qualified), Mar. 1-4
–Story and photos by Doug Petrowski