Last year, taking a 3-point shot was as challenging as making it for Marcus Raschkow.
He’d hesitate, then reluctantly launch from the perimeter. And hope it went in. Usually, it didn’t.
“I didn’t have much confidence,” the Olympia guard said.
But no more. With a boost in practice and confidence, Raschkow’s 3-point shooting percentage has risen from last year’s 23 percent to 46 percent this season.
“Now, I expect it to go in,” he said. “Coach gets mad if I don’t take them.”
Raschkow’s bombs-away approach is a big reason why the 23-3 Bears won the 4A Narrows League championship and play Curtis at 10:30 a.m. today in the quarterfinals of the state tournament in the Tacoma Dome.
Whenever Curtis double teams inside on Alex Weber-Brader, Olympia’s senior forward averaging 21 points, Raschkow will be ready to make the Vikings pay and pop the 3.
“Marcus is our best outside shooter,” Olympia coach Luke Salme said. “He’s not consistently up in double digits, but he’s consistent in shooting the 3. He’s our best outside shooter.”
Olympia has many talented role players.
The Bears have a designated scorer in Weber-Brader, a designated passer in Jamie Smith and a designated 3-point shooter in Raschkow, who is averaging 10 points.
But if Olympia is going to knock off Curtis, the Bears will have to do it with their defense-by-community philosophy.
“If their final score is in the 70s, we’re probably not going to win,” Salme said. “We’ve got to hold them as close to 50 as we can.”
Olympia’s match-up zone has been a headache for opposing teams. The Bears are holding teams to a measly 36.5 percent shooting, a school record. To win today, the Bears will have to contain Davonte Lacy, the South Puget Sound League South MVP, who’ll play basketball for Washington State next year.
The Bears will also have to contain Darius Johnson-Wilson, a 6-foot-5, 280-pound forward, and Julian Vaughn, a 6-7 leaper.
“Everyone knows Curtis as Davonte Lacy’s team because he’s the (Pacific-10 Conference) athlete,” Salme said. “But truly, everything for that team starts from the inside. They like to pound the ball inside on every possession.”
That will put a lot of pressure on Weber-Brader, the Bears’ tallest player at 6-4. He’ll get help from Dom Francks. The two will attempt to sandwich Johnson-Wilson, hoping to limit his possessions and his points.
“It’s a matter of beating their bigs to a spot,” Salme said. “We’re not huge by any means. But both Alex and Dominic are really active.”
That quickness is a big reason why Olympia has held eight of its last nine opponents to under 51 points.
“This team really takes pride in its defense,” Salme said. “It’s a big part of our success.”
No one buys into the value of defense more than Olympia’s Kyle Steen, a senior guard. His dad, Mike Steen, has been the team’s junior varsity coach for 17 years.
“Kyle thrives in that defensive role,” Salme said. “A lot of that credit goes to being a coach’s kid. He just wants to win, and he’ll do what he can to help. He’s found his niche in defense.”
With two more wins, Olympia would equal the 1997-98 team that set a school record with 25. The Bears already broke the school record for most 3-pointers in a season and Weber-Brader broke the school record for career points.
“Alex is a huge reason why we’re here,” Salme said. “We’re not going to deviate from that.”
Weber-Brader is one of eight seniors on the roster playing their last games for the Bears.
“What a ride it’s been,” Salme said.