Newport coach Steve Haizlip is aware that, to this point, the Knights have operated mostly under the radar despite just winning a three-game tournament and posting a 9-2 record this season.
“And I’m fine with that,” he said.
But that could all start to change in the coming weeks. The Knights have played much of their season to this point without forward Isaac Dotson, a Division-I bound quarterback who averaged 17 points and 10 rebounds as a junior.
Dotson returned full-strength from an injury on Dec. 21 against Skyline and had eight turnovers — “He was a little rusty,” Haizlip said — but he has since rounded into form. He was named to the Les Schwab Holiday Hoopfest’s all-tournament team, along with teammate Miles Fowler, after averaging 13.3 points per game.
“There was just this confidence about the team,” Haizlip said. “I think we’re very confident in general, but even more so when you have a 6-foot-3 stud that’s very athletic and very physical. He just brings a calmness to the entire team.”
In the championship game, Haizlip said his team trailed 18-5 in the first quarter and struggled making shots. Dotson and Fowler told their teammates not to panic, that they were taking good looks and the shots would fall.
Newport then held Mountain View to just two field goals in the second and third quarter en route to a 12-point win. It was Newport’s third win against a ranked team from Oregon.
The Knights were solid without Dotson in the lineup, but he now makes them a serious threat in KingCo 4A. Will Ferris is averaging 14.5 points per game, Calvin Throckmorton is averaging 10 points and Fowler, who Haizlip called a lockdown defender, is averaging eight.
Since his return, Dotson is chipping in 13 points per game, and Jake Higgins, a sophomore, came off the bench in one tournament game and hit five three-pointers.
“This is probably the deepest team I’ve had at Newport, and I truthfully mean that,” Haizlip said. “We’ve had a different leader every night.”
Fresh off their tournament win, the Knights will quickly found out where they stand when they play Garfield, winners of eight straight games, at home on Friday at 8 p.m.
“It’s going to be a great test,” Haizlip said.
Now the Knights are heading into it at full strength. Dotson, a 6-foot-3 forward who plays much bigger, adds another inside presence to a team that isn’t huge but does possess quality size (Newport plays five post players taller than 6-foot-3).
Dotson, who committed to Nevada before coach Chris Ault retired at the end of this season, scored 12 points in Newport’s win in the championship game against Mountain View.
“Everybody knows on the football field that he’s an amazing leader, but it just carries over to everything,” Haizlip said.