(Photo Credit: Grace Kinch)
If you have talent, you can win.
Take the University of Washington Huskies in Coach Lorenzo Romar's last few seasons for example. From 2010 to 2017, Washington had seven first round NBA picks, including the No. 1 overall pick - Markelle Fultz - in 2017. And yet, the Dawgs posted 79 victories and 83 defeats. The Huskies qualified for the NCAA tourney once during that time, the NIT three times and shut out three more times.
So when you talk to Kelso boys' hoop coach Joe Kinch, he will take all talent you want to give him, but just as important to the success of a team, Kinch feels, is intellect.
"Being smart is super important. You have to have good players, but you combine hoop smarts to that talent and you can win" Kinch said.
Another piece to the puzzle for Kelso was trust.
"There were moments when I took input from the kids. A lot of input," Coach Kinch said. "This team displayed a lot of maturity and they had earned the right (to speak up).
This season Kelso had plenty of cerebral players and that paid off in a 22-6 season. Kelso added the bi-district championship and finished sixth in state.
As for hoop smarts, senior point guard Emmitt Kinch, Coach Kinch's kid, arguably led the way.
Coach Kinch doesn't gush when discussing his son, but media folks - radio and print - have.
Emmitt Kinch drove the bus. He could score when necessary, but managing the game was his forte. He was one of those players who made everyone better.
"It was hard (watching Emmitt), but incredibly rewarding," Coach Kinch said. "Emmitt is a really tough point guard."
Emmitt Kinch scored 10 points a game. Riley Noah added 13. But the Hilanders' big man was a big man - Shaw Anderson.
The 6-foot-5 1/2-inch Anderson led the Scots with 22 points a game.
"Shaw plays like he is 6-7," Coach Kinch said. Shaw, only a junior, has time to grow before matriculating to college.
"I think Shaw is a Big Sky (Division 1) level of player. The confidence he has has blossomed through the years.
"Shaw is a patient player with good hands in the post. He is quick enough and inside he can finish with the dunk."
Coach Kinch admitted that Anderson will probably play a wing, not the post, in college.
"He will need a lot of three-point (shooting) workouts," Coach Kinch said.
Coming off an 18-6 season a year ago, Coach Kinch was optimistic heading into this past season.
"We were 18-6 last year and people acted like we came out of nowhere this season. I thought we could win league , but I didn't think beyond that," Kinch explained.
But after league champion Kelso beat No. 6 Wilson of Tacoma in the district quarterfinals, Coach Kinch's evaluation shifted.
"I thought maybe we could win (bi-district)," he recalled.
And that's exactly what the Hilanders did. After they walked over Wilson (65-54), they then dispatched of North Thurston (67-58) setting up a bi-district title clash with Lincoln of Tacoma. A 23-0 Lincoln of Tacoma quintet.
Coach Kinch, 46, and in his 20th year with the program, wasn't sure what to expect vs. Lincoln. He didn't need to worry as Kelso clobbered the Abes 62-49. The Scots followed with a win over Timberline to earn a first-round bye at state.
"This season was the perfect storm for us," he said. "It's been a big grind (the entire season) and thank God we survived. And when you get the kind of effort we got from the kids, it's a good experience."
Kelso's first trip to state since 1993 took a big hit before the opening tip at the Tacoma Dome.
Riley Noah, Kelso's second leading scorer (13 points per game) and a scrappy player inside, was sidelined by an emergency appendectomy.
"It was a blow," Coach Kinch said of Noah's absence. "But Noah was really good (on the bench) and he was so positive."
In fact, Riley's dogged attitude allowed him to step onto the Tacoma Dome hardwood a mere six days after surgery, which didn't surprise Coach Kinch in the least.
"He's that kind of kid," Kinch said.
Kelso, after a first-round bye, lost to Eastside Catholic (63-47), defeated O'Dea (57-54) and lost to Timberline (64-59 in overtime) to place sixth at state.
Coach Kinch didn't mince words when talking to his players in the locker room following the final loss.
"Your body of work is impressive. This team is the greatest in (Kelso) history," Kinch said to a gloomy group of lads. "I finally got the 1993 team to concede a bit. They still think they could beat you on the court, but not on paper."
Kinch didn't stop there. "This is the greatest senior (basketball) class of all time and this is the greatest (basketball) team of all time," he concluded.
You can look it up.