The hard foul left Matthew Poquette with a fractured jaw and three fewer teeth than before the game had started. Much more painful perhaps was the fact that his junior season was cut short due to the cringe-worthy injury. No postseason play. Gone was the chance to add to the already impressive resume the Morton-White Pass boys basketball program had complied over the last four seasons.
One year, some involuntary dental work and a ton of hours in the gym fine-tuning his skill set later and Poquette is eyeing one last deep playoff run for him and his Timberwolf teammates.
“The season has really been one big blur,” the senior said, “but it’s been so much fun. I’ve just been working towards getting the Timberwolves back to where they belong.”
Last year, with Poquette out of the lineup, Morton-White Pass unceremoniously bowed out of the district tournament extremely early, losing its first two playoff games which snapped a streak of four consecutive state tournament appearances.
Two of those previous state berths ended in undefeated state championships for the Timberwolves, and while the undefeated aspect is already unobtainable, a third banner is well within reach when you have a player as gifted as the 6-foot-6 Poquette on your roster.
“He really spent a lot of time this offseason working on his overall game,” Timberwolves coach Tony Gillispie said about his star player. “He’s always been a very good back to the basket player, but he knew he needed to work on his ball handling ability and outside shot, and he’s done that.”
These two aspects have made Poquette, who was an AP all-state selection last year, an even more dangerous player.
A multiple-facet forward who is now equally comfortable on the perimeter as he is inside the paint, Poquette has simply been a terror for opposing defenses this year, averaging nearly 28 points a contest with a handful of 40-plus point games sprinkled in throughout the season for good measure.
“It’s been a very unique year because every time we step out onto the court the teams throw a different style of defense at us to try to stop him,” Gillispie said.
Poquette and his Timberwolves team has seen just about every non-traditional defense this season – a box-and-one, a triangle-and-2 and all sorts of defensive hybrids. Few have been able to slow him down as Poquette is one of the state’s leading scorers regardless of classification, which has played a large factor in Morton-White Pass ending the regular season ranked in the top 10 in the WIAA’s RPI ranking – something which should help the Timberwolves should they successfully navigate through district play.
“There’s a lot of pride in knowing teams do that,” Poquette said about all the attention he receives from opposing defenses, “but it can be frustrating at times.”
So what’s the biggest difference for Poquette this season? He’s become unrushed and now simply lets the game come to him.
“I just had to slow everything down,” Poquette said. “There were times last year I was too out of control. I was trying to do too much and that would lead to turnovers. I’ve really tried to cut down on those this year.”
While he has clearly elevated his game on the court this season, another aspect that cannot be underestimated is all the off-the-court intangibles he brings to the squad through his senior leadership.
During his first two years on varsity, Poquette played with his older brother, Kaleb, learning from his sibling not only how to play the game, but also how to guide a team to success.
He couldn’t have picked a better teacher, as Kaleb, who now plays at South Puget Sound College, led the Timberwolves to a pair of state championships and an 81-4 overall record his final three seasons.
“I tried to learn from him as much as I could, including the leadership side of the game,” Poquette said about his brother. “It was a great experience being able to play with him those two years. I’m Kaleb’s biggest fan and vice versa.”
The younger Poquette was a member on the second of the Timberwolves’ back-to-back state championship teams, playing a limited role as a freshman. He now hopes to bookend his high school playing career with a pair of titles.
“The bar was set really high here early on,” Poquette said, “but I think it helps us because we know what it takes to get there.”
Poquette spent the last two summers playing against some of the nation’s best players as part of the Under Armor AAU team Washington Supreme and will play next year at Central Washington University.
But before he heads to Ellensburg, he has some unfinished postseason business to take care of from last year.