The Washington boys basketball team has deployed a next man up mentality all season.
The Panthers (24-6) frequently have ten players play in a game, showing the depth of the team.
The deep bench was on display Tuesday in Washington’s 44-33 win over Sterling in the Peoria Sectional semifinals at Bradley University’s Renaissance Coliseum.
Panther’s junior guards Tairae Hersemann and Kameron Motteler came off the bench to ignite Washington.
Hersemann scored 20 points behind five 3-pointers and Motteler played lock down defense and handed out numerous assists in the second half, controlling the tempo of play from the point guard position.
“We are a bullpen,” Washington coach Kevin Brown said. “You look at our team, and we just keep plucking out what we need at that point in time.”
Washington needed scoring and direction Tuesday, due to Sterling locking down Devin Whitelow, who failed to convert a field goal in the contest, despite scoring seven points from 7-for-9 shooting from the charity stripe.
“Devin got taken away from the point guard, and it was just next man up,” Brown said. “It is a mindset of our team right now. When we need this or that, you've got to be ready. We go in there and try to pluck out what we need.”
Motteler took over the point guard duties, running the ball the length of the floor before setting his teammates up for easy baskets at will in the second half.
“I just wanted to bring some energy and a little excitement to the game,” Motteler said. “Once I make a fancy pass, that gets everything going.”
Brown gives Motteler a lot of credit for fighting this season, after missing the opening 13 games of the season.
“Kameron is a flow guy and once he gets going, things are positive,” Brown said. “He is so vocal on the floor. He is a character that brings a lot of things to a team, and that is an attribute to his personality.”
Hersemann brought the scoring, thanks to his hot hand from behind the arc.
“Coach (Brown) always tells me to shoot, even if I miss,” Hersemann said. “So I just go out and shoot. Kameron and everyone were setting me up, so I just had to make the shots.”
Brown knew that Hersemann would step up under the bright lights.
“We thought that when he got in a big arena, he would be able to shoot the basketball,” Brown said. “He played a complete game for us.”
Hersemann and Motteler both agreed that the next man up mentality of Brown motivated them to keep working each day, knowing that persistence would earn them more playing time.
“Coach always says, ‘You’re the only one that can take yourself out of the mix,’” Hersemann said. “If you work hard, he notices.”
Washington is preparing for the sectional final 7 p.m. Friday night, where they will play the winner Wednesday's game between Bloomington and Rock Falls.
However, the Panthers aren’t focusing on their next opponent.
Instead, they are enjoying the way they play and focusing on their own game.
“We are really having a lot of fun right now, and you can see on the floor that we are playing for each other,” Hersemann said. “It is a great feeling.”
And that excitement has transferred over to many aspects of the program.
“We had to tell them four times in the locker room to be quiet (before practice),” Brown said. “They’ve had this excitement all year long. There were a lot of people that wrote this team off, but this group of guys didn’t quit working.”