The Chronicle’s 2020 All-Area Boys Basketball Team: Cline Has Shined

The Chronicle’s 2020 All-Area Boys Basketball Team from left, Tyler Speck, Carter Whitehead, Bryce Cline, Braden Thomas and Carter McCoy.

By Eric Trent / etrent@chronline.com

Bryce Cline’s breakneck speed is predicated on his whirlwind attitude. He never lets up, whether it be behind center, where he threw for over 1,000 yards this year; in the high jump pit, where he was fourth at state in 2019; or with a basketball in his hand. Every sport the Winlock senior plays he finds success in, but it’s more true on the hardwood than anywhere else.

“If I have an off-day, I go into the gym for two hours, put in work, put some shots up,” Cline said. “Game speed, not lazy, not open gym. Just putting in work all the time and not taking a break ever.”

The Central 2B MVP led the county in scoring with 22 points per game, and while that’s impressive by itself, it’s far from the only thing he brings to the court. Cline, a 6-foot guard, also averaged seven rebounds, six assists and four steals per game while leading the 17-7 Cardinals to a second-place finish in the C2BL. No one in the county put up consistent numbers across the board like Cline did, and it’s the reason he’s this year’s All-Area MVP.

“I’ve been working for it. If I did get it or not, it was OK with me,” Cline said. “I knew it was a great season.”

The Cardinals fell a game shy of a state regional berth, taking a season-ending loss to eventual fifth-place state finisher Willapa Valley at districts, a team that ended up toppling the top-ranked undefeated team at state (Liberty).

The three-sport athlete was going to make it four this spring before sports were put on hold, trying out for the baseball team for the first time since freshman year. He would have been the starting shortstop. Even more, he was planning on playing three sports this spring: baseball, track and AAU basketball.

It’s this relentless attitude that’s carried him to success in whatever field or court he’s on. That, and he just plain outworks everyone.

“Personally, I think I can do everything,” Cline said. “I can shoot the 3, but I don’t like to rely on that. I like to post a player up, a guy that’s smaller than me. I don’t get a lot of tall guys on me because I’m a guard.”

But his bread and butter are forays to the cup. Teams knew that when Cline attacked the rim, there was little they could do to stop it. And if he was drawing double teams in the paint, he’d kick it out to teammate Coleson Richendollar for a 3-pointer, or pull back himself and sink a turnaround J.

Bryce Cline

“I like to drive to the hoop and get some fouls called,” Cline said. “Draw contact, throw it up, make two free throws and just go from there.”

That aggressiveness came from his dad, Rich, an Onalaska alum, who would shove him with pads mid-air as he practiced driving for layups so he wouldn’t shy from contact. Him made him relish getting hit. 

“He taught me everything I know,” Cline said. “He played a lot of basketball.”

And while he enjoys competing in football and track, it’s the atmosphere of playing on a basketball court in front of cheering fans that brings him the most satisfaction.

“The hometown coming to support you,” Cline said. “All the support and love you get throughout the sport. People love coming to watch basketball. It’s high energy, fast paced, up and down, might get a few dunks here and there to make the crowd go crazy. That’s what it’s all about; the energy of it… The love for the game. I have a passion for it. I don’t ever want to stop playing.”

He’s yet to sign with a college yet but has drawn interest from Division II, Division III and NWAC schools in California, Minnesota, Idaho, Washington.

“Still not sure where I want to go,” Cline said. “Keeping my options open. I would like to go out of state, because I know what’s in Washington. Try something new.”

The Chronicle’s 2020 All-Area Boys Basketball Team

F Carter McCoy, W.F. West, 6-foot-4, Jr.

Pull up Carter McCoy’s highlight reel pinned to the top of his Twitter and the first thing one sees is McCoy posterizing a hapless defender with a one-handed jam. Another shows McCoy cleaning up a missed shot by throwing down a two-handed slam. It’s easy to see McCoy, a junior forward for the Bearcats is one of the most dynamic athletes in the county. Few can match his blend of hops and speed, and add a lightning-quick spinning post move and he’s become deadly in the paint.

McCoy’s athleticism has garnered him first-team all-league honors in both football and basketball this season. But it’s his prowess on the court, where he averaged 13.7 points, 8.3 rebounds 2.6 assists and two steals per game, that earns him a spot on the All-Area basketball team.

“We had a lot of guys that were capable of doing it,” McCoy said. “It’s a big honor.”

Carter McCoy

A 3.7 GPA student, McCoy is a selfless teammate, hesitant to say ‘I’ and more comfortable saying ‘we,’ because he knows his friends and teammates have been a major factor in his success.

Basketball season has been over for nearly a month for the Bearcats, a team that went 16-7 with a second-place finish in the 2A Evergreen Conference and were one win away from advancing to regionals. But McCoy and his teammates are still meeting up and drilling buckets.

Tyler Speck, Cade Haller, Kayden Kelly, Dirk Plakinger and McCoy meet up at least every other day to shoot around. They get off 400-700 shots per day.

“I’ve gotten a lot better from last year,” McCoy said. “A big part of that is shooting with my seniors this year. Just going on weekends, random days to shoot. I shot last night. I shot the night before. It all helps evolve your shot and your game. We’re all trying to do something with this sport and go far. We’re just putting in as much time as we can.”

F Braden Thomas, Adna, 6-foot-3, Sr.

Few Central 2B League basketball players were happy to see 6-foot-3, 190-pound Adna forward Braden Thomas barreling into the paint with the ball in his hands. And even fewer were able to stop him.

The county’s second-leading boys scorer and Pirates star averaged 20.2 points and 7.3 rebounds for a Pirates team 13-11 and earned a spot in the district tournament. His mix of height, mass, speed and scoring ability helped him put up season-highs of 35 points and 15 rebounds, and earned him a spot on the All-Area boys basketball team.

“Feels good knowing that I’m All-Area and that our team played hard this season, even though we came up short in our season,” Thomas said. 

Braden Thomas

There are not many football-first players who average over 20 points and seven rebounds per game, but Thomas is one of those rare athletes. He likes basketball, but loves the gridiron.

Thomas threw for over 1,000 yards, ran for nearly 700 and scored 28 touchdowns for the Pirates as a second-team all-league quarterback in a loaded Pacific 2B Mountain division that included state champion Onalaska.

And just like Thomas shrugging off would-be tacklers on the field, he was nearly unstoppable when he sprung through the lane for a layup. But his No. 1 attribute on the hardwood, isn’t his offensive talent, he said. It’s being a team player. 

“Just being coachable and listening to the coach and playing hard,” Thomas said. 

F Tyler Speck, W.F. West, 6-foot-3, Sr.

Whenever Speck gets the ball he hears the same thing from nearly every coach in the league: “Shooter, shooter, shooter!”

“I’m always like, ‘That’s somebody else, that’s not me,’” Speck said. “But I always get it.”

On a team loaded with talent, including fellow All-Area selection Carter McCoy, second-team all-leaguer Kayden Kelly, who’s the best passer in the county, and all-league honorable mention pick Cade Haller, Speck separates himself with his scoring ability.

As the Bearcats’ primary long-range sharpshooter, Speck, a catch-and-shoot machine, racked up 14.4 points per game as the leading scorer on a loaded Bearcats squad. And how does hearing ‘shooter’ affect his game?

“It makes me push myself harder because he thinks I’m the shooter, so I’m going to show him that I can do other things than just shoot,” Speck said. 

Tyler Speck

He does, he added 4.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals per game, including a school career-record of 115 steals as the senior became adept at snatching the ball away from unwary ball-handlers. But even more important to the Bearcats was his unselfish play, his favorite part of his game.

“Just being a teammate,” Speck said. “I like being a leader and pushing my teammates, helping coach and being there for anybody that needs help.”

It’s that type of play that’s earned him a spot on the All-Area team, an award he didn’t see coming.

“It’s pretty surreal,” Speck said. “I never thought I would (reach) this moment. It’s pretty awesome.”

G Carter Whitehead, Onalaska, 5-foot-10, Sr.

Whitehead may be the smallest on this list, height-wise, but his game is one of the biggest. His smaller stature is what has fueled his drive to succeed on the court, and what has made him into a lethal shooter and finisher in the C2BL.

At 5-foot-10, Whitehead grew tired of getting stymied against top-flight competition in AAU tournaments, so he adjusted his game.

“Since I was little, I was never the biggest guy on the court,” Whitehead said. “So you learn to delay your shot, or when you’re going down the lane, throw it up over the 7-footer. AAU definitely helped with that, it’s like Life Christian. You’re playing kids like that every single game. You learn after 20 times getting blocked going down there.”

Carter Whitehead

Now he’s one of the elite scorers in the county, and perhaps the most efficient, leading the a 20-8 Onalaska team to a state berth as the Loggers were the last boys team in the county left standing. Whitehead put up 16.7 points per game while shooting a blazing 42 percent from the field, including 73 percent from the free throw line and 30 percent from long range.

But he’s more than just an offensive machine. Whitehead averaged 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and three steals per game, finishing the year with 88 steals and 13 blocks. These are the reasons Whitehead, a first-team all-league selection, is also an All-Area caliber player.

“Growing up, you just want to be one of the best players in the league,” Whitehead said. “And you watch all the high schoolers growing up and see them all-league. Finally getting here feels good.”

Even better than his efficiency, his shooting and his stealing abilities are his ball-handling, something that was thrust upon him this season as the post-heavy Loggers needed a Chris- Paul-type floor general. He learned to bring it up the court against press and man-to-man pressure the full game, and he fell in love with it.

“I used to tell Ashton (Haight) all the time, whenever a kid would come up to guard me I would look at him and tell him I like the pressure,” Whitehead said.

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