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PREP FOCUS: Benson starts fast under new coach Earl Clark

The Earl Clark Era is off to a good start at Benson High.

Clark, the school's new boys basketball coach, enjoyed a 79-59 victory over De La Salle in the season opener Thursday night.

Clark, 36, played at Benson in the early 1990s. He takes over for Troy Berry.

"Earl is trying to change the culture, bring in a lot more structure and get the kids to buy in defensively," says assistant coach Page Mesher.

The Techmen have talent in 6-3 senior guard Vonte Carter and several other players.

Carter went for 25 points and got seven steals in the opening game, played at Warner Pacific College.

"He could be a D-I guy," Mesher says. "He's a dynamic player with lightning-quick hands."

Carter has AAU experience with close friends such as Jefferson star Silas Melson (bound for Gonzaga) and Columbia Christian's Kameron Chatman (Michigan).

Tech's size comes largely in the form of 6-9 senior Katahdin "KJ" Bosco and 6-8 senior Cameron Retherford, a potential decathlete.

Retherford had 16 points and 10 rebounds against De La Salle.

At the 2013 Class 5A track and field championships, Retherford took third in the long jump, fourth in the 110 hurdles and fifth in the 300 hurdles. His personal bests in those events are 21-8 1/2, 15.20 and 40.00. He won the high hurdles at the PIL 5A meet and placed second in the low hurdles and long jump and fourth in the high jump.

Clark, who coached five years at La Salle (2004-09), played for current Cleveland coach Don Emry at Benson, and Mesher was one of his assistant coaches there for two years. When Clark got the Benson head coaching job, he asked if Mesher would come out of basketball coaching retirement to help out as the defense and rebounding coach.

"Earl is a tremendous role model for the young men in the community," Mesher says. "I couldn't say no to him."

Mesher has one daughter who is a softball standout at Lincoln and helped the Cardinals reach the 2013 6A semifinals. Another daughter, a junior, has transferred to Jefferson to be part of that school's famed dance program.

"So with me at Benson, we've got one-third of the PIL covered," he says. "I think I'm the first Jefferson parent to coach at Benson. It'll be interesting in January, when we play Jefferson twice."

The Techmen are going to busy for a while, too. They will play Saturday night at home against Lincoln High of Tacoma, Wash.; Monday at Evergreen in Vancouver; Tuesday at home versus Grant; and Friday at Columbia Christian.

That's five games in nine days to start the season.

Oh, and then comes a Dec. 17 game at Lincoln, making it six games in 13 days.