The V holds the keys

When they tell you that your high school years fly by, you never believe them.

Mario McKinney heard all the rumors but didn’t know how hard it would hit him until it did. “Since my freshman year, they told me it would go by fast, and now I see what they were talking about.”

Nicknamed Rio, senior Mario McKinney’s high school journey was anything but ordinary. Vashon made it to the state final 3 out of 4 of his years, winning three of those times. Mario was the only player on the current squad to play on the last Championship team in 2017.

“I got to experience this my freshman and sophomore year, but we slipped up my junior year. Being able to come back my senior year and help my guys win is a blessing,” mentioned Rio.

McKinney finished with 23 points and 7 rebounds in his last game wearing Vashon across his chest in a 69-59 victory over Springfield Catholic.

All season, parents and fans of the north side high school would chant, “You need the keys to drive the bus,” while holding their keys high in the air. Vashon has been in the driver’s seat all season, and this state title win was no exception. The V outscored Springfield in every frame except the last, mostly due to last minute fouls by Catholic.

Coach Tony Irons expected a battle coming in. “We knew coming in it was going to be a war.”
Vashon’s normally dominating persona was halted by a strong performance from Springfield Catholic’s Jake Branham who finished with a game-leading 25 points.

“I think we did a good job of wearing down [Branham]. He’s a really good player, and if you allow him to be comfortable he can affect the game in a lot of different ways.” Branham had 14 points alone in the first half, keeping the Vashon Wolverines on their heels. Mario was kept to half that. Springfield Catholic was heating up.

Recko Bailey put a stop to that.

“In the second half, Recko came in and gave us a spark. He’s part of the reason that the second half got rolling,” Coach Irons explained the second half explosion that pushed Vashon to the title.

Bailey had 7 huge steals, including back-to-back take-aways leading to a couple of Cam’ron Fletcher’s signature rim shaking dunks, keeping the momentum on the V’s side all night.

Fletcher, who is a shining star in Vashon’s hopes of returning to Springfield next year, finished the game with 19 points. Phillip Russell finished with 17. The Wolverines have a strong outlook for the near future but for now, Coach Irons is letting the kids enjoy the moment.

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