ROYAL CITY — Gage Christensen stood bouncing a ball just outside the locker room, gazing across the floor to the student section as the girls game wound down before the Knights’ return to the floor after the holiday break.
You could almost hear his thoughts. “Knuckleheads, but at least they’re my knuckleheads.”
The Royal fan base was in rare form and came prepared with four larger-than-life, cutout heads in the likeness of Knight seniors Angel Farias, Sawyer Jenks, Owen Ellis and Christensen.
“It’s pretty cool, actually,” the 5-foot-7 point guard said, the image if his near-white, blond hair highlighted in the sea of black on the far side of the gym.
Bobblehead night in Royal produced more than one smile on the faces of the guys whose images were larger than life as they ran the floor, eventually running away from SCAC East cellar dweller River View, 82-52.
Jenks finished with 28 points and 12 rebounds. Ellis had 18, including three buckets from the 3-point line.
The Knights (6-4, 2-1 SCAC East) led by 20 at the intermission and systematically pulled away to a 30-point victory over the Panthers (3-4, 0-4), who have yet to win a conference game. For the bobblehead boys, it was a chance to work on new offensive sets and try out the pressure defense under game fire.
“We were running some new plays, setting screens and passing more,” Ellis said. “I thought our guys hit a lot of shots and stayed focused. We kept it from being just a pick-up game.”
The Knights natural style is to grab the rebound and go, but they settled in to a structured passing game off the set with cutters working away from the ball, kind of a drive and dish. Sometimes it went out to Ellis on the 3-point line, other times it went to the rack.
“Halfway through the third quarter we weren’t really focused on scoring any more because we had the game won. We wanted to run through the offense and get the younger guys, especially, comfortable with the changes,” Gage Christensen, who finished up with seven points and six assists. “Pretty much all our offenses are designed to score inside, but we always have our shooters ready to have it kicked out.
“We haven’t run the pressure defense much in games, so we did that tonight to work on it when it really matters.”
It’ll really matter in the next couple of weeks with SCAC East leader Connell (Jan. 12) and second-place Warden (Jan. 19) coming to town for a key stretch in the second half.
Farias scored four of his eight points in the first quarter and Tyler Allred and Gage Christensen added seven points apiece.
Other south county results
College Place 57, Wahluke 51
Zillah 94, Wahluke 45
Royal 73, College Place 36