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The Gazette KCRG
Posted February 17, 2013
Warriors learning how to win

Cedar Rapids Kennedy's Anthony Carter struggles for control the of the ball with Austin Bergstrom (left) and Peter Holmes (right) of Cedar Rapids Washington during the first half of a game at Washington High School in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, February 5, 2013. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette-KCRG TV9)

CEDAR RAPIDS – It’s difficult for Adam Sanchez not to look into the future.

He’s got a solid group of sophomores to work with at Cedar Rapids Washington. His two freshmen teams are first and second in the CRANDIC (Cedar Rapids and Iowa City) standings.

“I think we’re still a couple years away from making the big jump that everyone wants us to make,” the first-year Warriors head coach said. “Honestly, I was excited about next year in about January. Now I’m excited about this year, too.”

He should be. Washington takes a mediocre 6-15 record into its Class 4A substate opener tonight at Cedar Rapids Kennedy, but that doesn’t begin to tell how far these Warriors have come.

They were oh-fer in 2011-12, a 0-21 record believed to be the worst in school history. They lost their first four games this season and 14 of their first 15.

But then suddenly came an honest-to-goodness win streak of five that ended last Thursday night in the regular-season finale to Dubuque Senior. Even then, Washington played 4A’s fourth-ranked team to an eight-point game.

That’s called undeniable progress.

“It definitely feels good. It’s new to us,” said senior guard Jason Oney. “It just feels a lot better than how we had been doing. We’ve got a good thing going right now, and hopefully we can keep it going.”

You ask Washington’s players and coaches why the turnaround, and you get a lot of different answers.

“I think it’s our work ethic,” said senior point guard Austin Bergstrom.

“In the beginning of the year, we didn’t really know how to win, how to close games,” Oney said.

Give a lot of credit to Sanchez. He had never been a head coach until this season, coming to Washington after assistant college coaching gigs at Drake and Grand View.

The Hudson native is only 29, so his players feel they can relate well to him. Sanchez makes a 45-minute commute each day from Williamsburg, where he lives with his wife and three young children, including twins.

There’s another baby on the way in August.

“I couldn’t ask for a better place, a supportive administration and people around me,” he said. “From our freshmen coaches and our sophomore coaches, they’ve all been a big support, a big help all year. The kids have been outstanding, continue to believe in what I’ve been trying to say. That’s hard to do sometimes when you’ve been losing so many games.”

Washington’s leading scorer, Peter Holmes, averages just 7.4 points per game. Then it’s Nehemiah Newman at 6.0.

It’ll be difficult for Washington tonight, since it already has beaten favored Kennedy twice. But, win or lose, this has been a successful season for the Warriors.

Call it laying the foundation.

“It feels good. It really does,” Bergstrom said. “After being through a tough couple of seasons, and now (winning), it just feels good.”

“I think a lot of it has to do with having a really good group of kids,” Sanchez said. “They had a belief in each other and what we were trying to do. And for some reason, they believed in a 29-year-old coach who had never been a head coach before.”

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