The Future has Arrived for Defending State Champs Zillah Basketball
Zillah is coming off a 1A State Championship season, and it would be easy to assume this team is not as motivated following a program-defining season. But that is not the case at all.
“Our main goal is to win a state championship, we set our mentality there, when you put Zillah across your chest you expect to win,” said head coach Mario Mengarelli.
Even with eight seniors gone from last year’s state championship team, the aura of confidence around this Zillah team is undeniable.
“Last year’s team was something special, but this year we have a bunch of hard-workers filling in spots, we’re not worried about anything,” said junior SG Brock Ellis.
A casual observer can immediately identify PG Antonio Salinas as an anchor on this team. A charismatic junior that seemingly glides on the court. Signatures of Salinas game include his catch-and-shoot ability, and making the right decisions under pressure.
“I feel like I’ll be a leader this year based on the speed, tempo and intensity I play at. I’m going to play a lot of minutes, so I’ve got to get guys in the right places,” Said Salinas.
Antonio Salinas is receiving heavy interest from schools like Oregon State, Eastern Washington, Univeristy of Cal - San Diego, Portland State and Portland.
Joining Salinas in the back-court will be 5-10 first year starting SG Brock Ellis. While not the most physically imposing player on the court, Ellis has high expectations for himself going into his first year as a starter.
“Primarily I need to play really good defense because I’ll probably be guarding the best guy. I also want to be able to run the break and hit shots in the open,” said Brock Ellis.
Another returning player from last year’s state champion team will be 5-9 forward Cesar Diaz. As one of the few players with varsity minutes under his belt, Diaz put in extra work this off-season to prepare for his new role.
“I’ve been in the gym a ton, getting my shots right, getting my ball-handling and defense right, as well as getting some extra weight-lifting in."
A featured player in the low post will be 6-4 sophomore Sebastian Godina. Godina made his varsity debut as a freshman last year, but appears to have grown in confidence going into his second season.
“There were a lot of good players from last year’s team that I learned from, that helped my confidence. This I year I need to get rebounds, get it out to our shooters, and guard the big guys. It’s not always glorious, but winning is all that matters.”
Rounding out the projected starting lineup will be first year starter 6-4 sophomore Weston Ide. Weston will bring physicality to the team with his rebounding and defensive presence.
Antonio Salinas had this to say about the conditioning of Zillah’s big men, “they are definetely able to keep up, we’re not as big as we were last year, so this year we’re going to be constantly running up and down the court.”
Zillah’s second unit features a host of upper classmen that paid their dues at the C team and JV level, and will now make their varsity debut.
Rotating in at the backcourt will be 5-8 junior Cody Vance and 5-10 senior Payton Whitaker. Vance will act as the primary second unit PG, while Whitaker will get minutes at both the PG and SG position.
Cody Vance is a stocky built point guard with a bulldog-type mentality. He plays with quickness and hustle, If you do beat him, he’ll come back at you.
Payton Whitaker is projected to be the SG on the second unit. Whitaker will play against the other team’s best offensive player and try to shut them down.
Coming of the bench at the power forward and center position will be 6-2 junior Kaden Magana and 6-1 senior Justin Irion.
Justin Irion has a reputation as one of the hardest working guys on the team, and is seen as a leader on the second unit due to his work ethic over the past three seasons. Kaden Magana is a lanky big man that will get rebounds and knock down open shots.
Jack of all trades senior Adrian Torres will be expected to do a little bit of everything coming off the bench. The 5-11 forward plays smart with the ball and can slide in nicely in any situation.
So what can we expect from Zillah this season? Most likely the same domination we’ve seen for nearly the last decade. Zillah has made it to the state tournament seven years straight now, winning it twice. Zillah has lost only seven total games since 2011!
“We’re confident. We don’t have as much talent as last year, but what we lack in talent this year we make up for with how fast we are, how physical we are, and taking care of the little things,” Antonio Salinas said on where he felt Zillah is at.
“All those guys on last years team were a group of winners, but it’s Zillah and tradition doesn’t graduate, we got guys coming back, it’s a different speed, there’s no denying it’s a different team ,” said head coach Mario Mengarelli.
Three games to look out for will be Zillah vs Kittitas (TBD), Zillah vs Mark Morris on December 29th, and Zillah vs Selah on January 9th.