When the West Warhawks' ninth-grade boys basketball team takes the court for the Warhawk Invitational next week, it will be playing at home and will have one goal in mind - winning the tournament.
The Warhawks (12-1) finished third at the tournament last year, but should the Warhawks win this year, they will have won the tournament two out of the last three years. And following their 59-34 win over Shawnee Heights last Thursday, many of the Warhawk players were excited for the tournament to begin.
"I can't wait. I'm ready to go right now," West guard Nick Jaimez said.
Jaimez has been a solid contributor for the Warhawks this season, playing tough defense to get steals that lead to transition layups. Jaimez also has a knack for hitting 3-pointers.
Earlier in the season, in West's only loss to Central, Jaimez's marksmanship from beyond the arc almost brought West back from a large deficit.
While Jaimez has the ability to hit from long range, West's offense begins with its defense.
West utilizes a frenetic full-court press to create havoc for opposing teams, which often leads to steals by Jaimez and point guard Christian Nelson.
"Christian Nelson is a really good defender," West coach Stan Frantz said. "He's been tough for us."
Frantz said West would likely not change its strategy much for the Warhawk Invitational, instead West hopes to move through the bracket by just doing the same things it's been doing all season.
Nelson agreed that no changes were necessary in order for West to reclaim the tournament title.
"We need to just go play our game," Nelson said. "Execute, do what we do, and come out with a win."
One advantage that may help West in accomplishing its goals is height.
Along with fellow post players A.J. Simons and Ryan Scott, Michael Swank usually towers over the opposition, giving West a strong inside scoring presence.
Against Shawnee Heights, Swank scored most of his 17 points by posting up, slashing to the basket, or scoring on offensive rebounds. But Swank proved he could also step outside and hit from the perimeter. Swank hit two 3-pointers in the game, and together with Jaimez Nelson, combined to give West a balanced scoring attack.
While that trio leads the Warhawks, Swank knows their success is a group effort.
"We play as a team together," Swank said. "And we have good team chemistry."
Frantz noted that two advantages his team had was its camaraderie and location of the tournament.
"I'm pretty happy right now with the group we got," he said. "And it (the tournament) is at home, so that kind of helps us out, too."
And what would the team's reaction be should they end the season with a tournament title?
"That would be really nice," Frantz said. "It's something we've strived for since the beginning of the year. We set it as one of our goals, so it'd be a good way to end the season."