John Barbee took over at Franklin Pierce just at the right time.
Not only does he have the Cardinals just one win away from a 2A state tournament berth in his first season at the helm after a thrilling 52-51 win at Lindbergh on Thursday in the first round of the 2A West Central District tournament on Thursday, he’s been provided the opportunity to coach his son, Jaylen Barbee, a freshman at Franklin Pierce.
It took the stars to align for Barbee to leave his post at River Ridge, which advanced to the state playoffs in four of his five seasons as its coach.
“It was tough to leave where I was at,” Barbee said. “I was in a good situation at River Ridge that had a long history of good basketball. We had some great teams when I was there. They’re going to continue to have good teams.
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“That was a tough decision, but at the end of the day, I wanted to be dad. I didn’t want my son to be playing for somebody else.”
Joining Jaylen at Franklin Pierce next year will be Barbee’s twins, Zionna and John John.
Taking the new job also presented a challenge for Barbee. Franklin Pierce won only two league games last season.
A year later, Barbee increased that number to eight wins and guided the Cardinals to their first postseason berth since 2012.
The Cardinals will travel to North Kitsap on Saturday in the district quarterfinals. A victory against the Vikings ensures Franklin Pierce of its first state trip since the 2010-11 season.
Changing the culture from the top-down is the crux of his success, and his seniors have been instrumental.
Senior 5-foot-4 point guard Dekari Boyd poured in a team-high 14 points in Thursday’s, including some key buckets down the stretch.
“Dekari for the last few years at this school, has been kind of a staple in running the show,” Barbee said. “He made his free throws late in the game. He hit that big 3 and he’s a heckuva a shooter.”
Boyd hoisted a deep 3-pointer at to give the Cardinals their first lead of the game with 7:15 left in the fourth. That kickstarted an 11-2 run and handed Franklin Pierce a 46-38 lead.
Lindbergh hung around, and eventually cut the lead to three after senior forward Maalik Siegel’s 3-pointer with 15.9 seconds left. But Boyd made one of two free throws after being fouled to extend the Cardinals’ lead to four, and provide enough cushion.
Boyd, the team’s leading senior with 13 points per game, has been the driving force for the Cardinals all season.
“At first, we just wondered,” Boyd said of when Barbee was first hired. “We didn’t know what was going to happen. We just came out a played and tried to create a new culture, came out harder and tried to hit the reset button.”
The program will be in good hands in the future, with sophomore Claudell Quinland, who had 13 points on Thursday, and juniors Tannyr Thomas and Abraham Konan playing key roles this season.
FP did its best in limiting Jalen Green, who finished with 16 points. Green is the younger brother of University of Washington sophomore Dominic Green. He entered Thursday averaging 25.9 points — including a season-high 51 points against Evergreen of Seatte — but a box-and-one defense made it difficult for Green to receive the ball.
“Our guys did a good job of making it tough on him,” Barbee said.
Green is witnessing his older brother come into his own as a sophomore for the Huskies. He was in attendance on Saturday at Alaska Airlines Arena when his older brother drained the biggest shot of UW’s season, a game-winning 3-pointer against Arizona, and was shoved into the back of the Wildcats’ bench by the Husky student section after the shot tickled twine and pandemonium ensued.
“It was a really big shot and I’m glad he had the opportunity to make it, because I knew he would,” Jalen said. “I have confidence in him as a shooter and he has confidence as a shooter to be able to make big shots like that.”
Jalen is on his way to following his big brother to Division-I basketball. He said he recently received an offer from Portland and has received interest from Eastern Washington, Washington State and Weber State.
It will be an uphill climb for Green and Lindbergh moving forward, with the Eagles needing three consecutive wins to advance to state. Lindbergh plays Steilacoom on Saturday at Curtis High School in a loser-out game.
Eagles coach Robert Graham Sr. is hopeful Lindbergh will get its starting point guard, Drew Hill, back on Saturday. The junior guard (11.8 ppg) missed Thursday’s tilt with a sprained ankle.