Get used to looking up at the Washougal High School boys basketball players.
Kevin Monsrud and Isaac Bischoff both rise above the pack at 6 feet, 6 inches tall. Standing shoulder-to-shoulder are Kyle Anderson and Joey Rubino at 6-5. Patrick McCarthy (6-4), Aaron Diester (6-3), Conor Mackenzie (6-2), Karsten Short (6-1) and Colton Pace (6-0) are only inches apart, and Mustapha Bah (5-11) and T.C. White (5-10) are just under 6 feet.
These Panthers might be giants. Going up against some of these large tree trunks in practice, guards Erik Ackerman (5-6) and Michael McElroy (5-4) look pretty small.
“We have pretty good size for a 2A school. Hopefully, we can put it to good use,” said Washougal head coach Malcolm Estes. “I would love to see our guys attack the basket inside, or kick the ball out to our perimeter players and score. We also should not have a problem out-rebounding teams, and turning those second and third shot opportunities into points.”
After falling short of the playoffs last season, Washougal entered the summer leagues with a new sense of purpose. Estes said the seniors have set the example by working hard in practice. Some of them have been playing ball together since elementary school.
“The seniors are showing great leadership, and they are holding the other kids to a higher standard,” Estes said. “They just seem to want to have a great year, as far as working together and striving to reach our goals.”
White describes his teammates as brothers who work harder than anybody else.
“We might not have the most talent, but we are one of the hardest working teams out there,” he said.
That is because these boys just love playing basketball.
“I look forward to the home games, being with my buddies on the court, and seeing the whole school and the community in the stands cheering us on,” Monsrud said.
“And, it’s fun talking about the games the next day at school,” Anderson added.
Mark Morris is the clear league favorite, while Washougal battles Hockinson and R.A. Long for the other two playoff spots.
“Mark Morris has not lost a league game in two years. This might be the year somebody knocks them off,” Estes said. “Hopefully, it’s us. That would send a message to the league that we’re not going to be pushed around.”
“We have a bunch of goals for this year,” McCarthy said. “A small one is to be the first team from Washougal to beat Mark Morris. Ultimately, we would love to go to districts and then state. Right now, we just want to get better every game and do as well as we can.”
A tough schedule awaits the Panthers, even before league starts on Dec. 16. After opening at Stevenson Thursday, Washougal also faces Mountain View, Skyview, Fort Vancouver, Centralia and White Salmon all before Christmas break.
“Our goal is to play each game as that’s the only one that matters. Our only focus is to be the best team we can be,” Estes said. “If we play our best, and play the way we know we are capable of, we can beat any team.”