Stepping down in enrollment classification isn’t a step down in the caliber of competition for Eatonville High School’s boys basketball team.
The Cruisers are members this season of the Nisqually League, a class 1A alignment that has produced four of the last five state champions for that category of schools – Cascade Christian in 2011 and 2010, Vashon in 2009 and Wright in 2008.
“This is going to be a very challenging year,” said coach Mark Swartout, whose team opened the 2012-13 campaign last Friday with a 60-38 victory over Bonney Lake. That was the first non-league tuneup before the Cruisers enter what’s expected to be a rigorous slate of games against fellow Nisqually members.
In the class 2A South Puget Sound League last year, Eatonville battled into the post-season playoffs and finished with a 12-8 record. Gone from that team are all-league stars Dalton Hancock and Erik Swartout. But the Cruisers are hopeful of nabbing a top-four finish in the Nisqually League and returning to the playoffs.
The Cruisers have experience in Josh Bennett, a fourth-year player at point guard, third-year posts Jesse Waddles and Caleb Keefer. Keefer’s a junior. Bennett and Waddles are seniors, the same as forward (and co-captain with Bennett) Zach Fairhart and wings Brendan Davis, Eric Mead and Caleb Schmit. All three have previous varsity experience, as do juniors Marcos Sanchez (point guard) and Jeff Patterson (wing).
New to the Cruisers are wing Ryan Waterman, a senior, junior guards Kyler Hecker and Joe Evans, and sophomore post Justin Kaelin.
Against Bonney Lake, Davis led all scorers with 23 points. Bennett had 13 points.
The Cruisers outscored Bonney Lake 18-3 in the second quarter en route to a 30-13 lead at halftime.
Swartout is in his 11th year as Eatonville’s coach. His assistant coaches include his son, Erik, who plays for Pacific Lutheran University when he isn’t working with fellow assistants Dan Fountain, Ben Carlman and Bill Nation.