WALLA WALLA - Devising a successful defensive scheme is a top priority for Waitsburg-Prescott boys basketball coach T.J. Scott as he prepares his team for Friday's regional showdown against Lake Roosevelt in the Wa-Hi gym.
It's a tall order. And defense is not Scott's only concern.
But everything in W-P's playbook targets Ty Egbert, the Raiders' omnipresent senior center who has already signed a national letter of intent at the University of Idaho. At 6-foot-8 and 200 pounds, Egbert is a potent force around the basket - when the Raiders have the ball, and when they don't.
"He's a big scorer and a big rebounder," Scott said of Egbert. "He controls the paint. He's probably averaging 20 points and 15 rebounds a game.
"We're working on two or three options as far as defending him. You don't want to go into a game like this with just one option and then have it not work."
What Scott didn't mention is that in addition to Egbert's scoring and rebounding skills, the Lake Roosevelt star is a shot blocker extraordinaire. In last year's Class 2B state tournament in Spokane, Egbert swatted nine Waitsburg-Prescott shots off course during the Raiders' 57-49 victory in a loser-out game.
Which leads Scott to believe his players better have their long-distance shooting shoes laced up tight Friday night at 6 in the first of two regional games on the Blue Devils court.
"It's going to come down to some of our guys knocking down some shots," Scott said. "We shot 25 3-pointers against Lake Roosevelt last year and made just four or five of them. That's not going to get it done.
"Guys like Justin Zuger and Dalton Estes, Dustin Wooderchak and Sterling Eastman, they are going to have to knock down some shots. And they're going to have to be willing to take them."
Egbert, who is regarded as the No. 5 college prospect in the state of Washington and No. 40 in the West by ESPN University Recruiting, scored just nine points against Waitsburg-Prescott in last year's tournament game. Repeating that defensive performance will be in the hands of 6-foot-3 Eshom Estes, 6-2 Zach Bartlow and 6-0 leaper Billy Brown.
"It's going to be up to those guys, some combination of the three," Scott said. "Zach is going to have to be around there because he is such a physical player."
Waitsburg-Prescott, the Southeast 2B District's No. 2 seed, takes a 13-10 season record into the game. Lake Roosevelt is 19-4 and is the No. 1 seed out of District 5-6.
In Friday's other boys game, scheduled for an 8 p.m. tip, Dayton meets Riverside Christian. The Bulldogs nipped Waitsburg-Prescott 57-56 in Monday's district championship game at Sherwood Center and are 21-1 on the season. Riverside Christian, the No. 3 seed from District 5-6, is 19-5.
Dayton is trying to get back to the state tournament for the first time since 1995 when Will Hutchens led the Bulldogs to their one and only boys state basketball championship.
Bulldogs coach Roy Ramirez doesn't expect it to be easy.
"They are very good, very quick, very aggressive," Ramirez said of the Crusaders. "It's going to be a good game.
"I've watched a few of the teams from up there play - Warden and White Swan. White Swan is very good, and they split with Riverside Christian during the year."
Dayton came through the district tournament unscathed, defeating Waitsburg-Prescott 49-38 and Walla Walla Valley Academy 67-53 before edging W-P again in the championship game.
"We played well against WWVA," Ramirez said. "We shot well, we shared the ball well. We did not play as well against Waitsburg-Prescott in that last game. It was a hard-fought game where both teams were playing hand-in-your-face defense. You're going to miss shots in games like that.
"But we're moving right along. We're doing OK, although you always want to improve."