It’s late Thursday morning in Tacoma, Day 2 of the State 4a basketball tournament. Lewis and Clark concludes loser-out games at 2 p.m. against Jackson. Gonzaga Prep boys get the midnight special (8:30 p.m.) against Garfield in the quarterfinals. Today is picture day and in the WIAA’s infinite wisdom, the pictures are taken on court rather, say, than in the Exhibition Hall. That usually sets the games back in time. Expect a later start. Speaking of which, the girls games that usually run late were right on time Wednesday, but the boys ran late yesterday in part to the foul-filled slugfest between Eisenhower and Curtis. So the G-Prep 7 p.m. game and LC 8:30 game overlapped by about a half.
As for Prep’s dandy:
It was a comeback to savor, although not the best one of the day. Curtis beat Ike after trailing by 18 and was still behind by 14 with around 5 minutes left to play Why the Cadets didn’t take their time after building the lead baffles me.
To recap: Prep trailed Decatur 17-2 with 2:40 left in the first quarter. The Gators hit three 3-pointers and four free throws by out-quicking, creating defensive chaos and putting the Bullpups in a foul hole. Then Prep went on a 29-9 tear, Sean Fischer with three 3-pointers, David Stockton with seven points, Ryan Nicholas and Travis Long four apiece. “I thought our defense got better,” said coach Mike Haugen. “We had kids in foul trouble and had to do quite a but of subbing. Once we got our main guys, including Nick Hanson back on the court - he’s incredible.”
Third quarter was a scramble. Haugen said his Bullpups bent - “we couldn’t keep them from scoring to save our lives,” he said - but Ryan Nicholas, who was 4-for-4 from the field and 3-for-4 from the line, kept Prep ahead, 48-45. Key early in the fourth quarter was Stockton’s blocked shot of a Terrell Williams layin attempt, hustle for the loose ball rebound, and Fischer’s basket. Stockton also hit a tough runner in traffic with 1:39 left after Decatur closed to within a basket. The Gators tied the game, but Nicholas was 4-for-4 at the line and Stockton picked off a save attempt by Decatur as the ball was going out of bounds to seal the win. It was culmination of a great comeback and hard-fought, physical and entertaining battle against an athletic, quick and springy foe. Almost all its scoring came from three players - Marcus Tibbs (19), who was granted an extra year of eligibility this year, Jaron Smith (18) and Jordan McCloud (15).
Up next is Garfield, a similar opponent, in a battle to see which team will be the top dog. The Bulldogs have one of the top-rated sophomores in the nation, 6-5 Tony Wroten (17,5 ppg) and a a guard like Tibbs in DeAndre Taylor (14.7). They go 6-4, 6-5 and are eight deep.
LC’s state title and 13-game state winning streak ended against Federal Way. The Eagles got a huge game from sophomore TyShana Burgess who hit 9 of 11 free throws for 15 points and had 8 rebounds. She averaged just 1.2 points in five games during regular season, according to the program - which is woefully incomplete this year. Daah Huertas-Vining added 13. A freshman, she didn’t play varsity during regular season according to the program. Both came off the bench. One of the season scoring leaders, Brittany Barrington proved a defensive thorn in LC’s side with six steals. Federal Way plays in the same league as Auburn-Riverside and Kentwood, two teams considered title contenders. So maybe the win wasn’t so much an upset.
“We play in probably the best league in state,” said coach Danny Graham. “If we handle those guys, there’s not much we can’t do. (The Tigers) made a huge run against us, but for being mostly freshmen and sophomores, we didn’t lose our composure.”.