Washougal boys basketball program embraces community

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Yorro Bah hangs in there to score a basket during a scrimmage game at Washougal High School. The Panthers start the season at Battle Ground Friday. Tip off is at 7 p.m.

The Washougal boys basketball team might be younger, but that doesn’t mean these Panthers aren’t dreaming about making it to the state tournament.

Washougal finished in fourth place at the district tournament during the past two winters, but that’s one victory shy of state. Returning varsity players Austin Tran, Patrick Jones and Yorro Bah are determined to make that dream a reality.

“Our goal is to silence the doubters and make it further than we have the past two years,” Bah said.

“It’s going to take hard work in practice and playing with your heart on the court,” Tran said. “Just giving everything you got in the game or in practice.”

The Panthers like the look and feel of their new floor inside the Joe Brown Gymnasium. Washougal will play Evergreen in their first home game on Friday, Dec. 13.

“It’s great to have a new floor. But at the same time, I’ll miss the old one because it was our floor for years,” said head coach Malcolm Estes. “That first night at home is going to be a great feeling. With the new lighting and the new floor, it looks like a completely different gym. It’s going to be a great place to come play, and watch a game.”

Estes will use the first month of the season to build a competitive lineup and rotation. Washougal will be tested in non-league by Battle Ground, Kelso, Prairie, Skyview, Columbia River and two games against Camas.

“When the bright lights come on, it will be interesting to see how we respond,” Estes said. “It’s going to take some time. We have a few rough spots, we may not be as smooth as we have been in years past, but these kids work hard and they trust each other. It’s a good group to be around, and that’s all you can ask for.”

Estes said this is Tran’s year to shine. He is one of six seniors on the team, along with Evan Behfar, Rick Stephens, David Wallace, Jake Weiss and Justin Wilmoth.

“He can flat out score,” Estes said about Tran. “He is going to be a difficult guard to defend in this league.”

The coach is also impressed by the growth of juniors Jones, Bah, Noah Prangley and Ryan Taylor.

Jones is the biggest obstacle at 6 feet, 6 inches. He looks like a tree. His out-stretched arms resemble branches.

“I feel great about the team,” Jones said. “We’re going to be more athletic this year and we’re going to get to play in the games longer. Just never give up. Never be satisfied.”

Bah also wants to earn and take advantage of increased playing time. He hopes to develop into a leader on and off the floor.

“I’m going to be holding people accountable. We’ve got to be the best we can be,” Bah said. “If everybody holds themselves accountable, we can get as far as we want to get.”