Top-ranked Dragons avoid upset in overtime

Jesse Tinsley photoBuy this photo Colfax’s Skylar Simonson soars above La Conner defenders.

There is nothing easy about the State 2B boys basketball tournament. Ask the St. George’s players. Or Colfax’s. Or the guys from Lind-Ritzville/Sprague.

And they were among Thursday’s winners. By the way, they also have something else in common. They all play in the Northeast 2B.

Three of the league’s representatives moved into today’s semifinals, with only Northwest Christian – which fell 49-46 to the Broncos, the fourth time the Crusaders have lost to LRS – facing a loser-out game.

But no one faced more of a challenge than league champion – and top-ranked – St. George’s. The Dragons (27-1) trailed much of the contest, finally raising their game in the fourth quarter and overtime against Morton-White Pass to survive 73-69.

And it was the biggest Dragon, 6-foot-6 junior Dexter Sienko, who rose above the Timberwolves down the stretch.

Surrounded by two or three shorter Wolves most of the game, Sienko scored 11 of St. George’s 13 overtime points along with its final four points in regulation. He finished with 28 (25 after halftime), and 18 rebounds, evenly split between offense and defense.

Why the second-half surge?

“I think they were more worried about our shooters,” Sienko said, dishing off the praise. “Will (Tender, who had 18 points) and Cody (Peplinski, with 12) were knocking down the shots.”

And the rebounds?

“I was just in the right place at the right time for a couple of those,” he said.

That was the story of Colfax’s 44-28 triumph over La Conner. The Bulldogs (21-7) were almost always in the right place at the right time defensively. They limited the Braves (22-2) to 24.5 percent shooting, a miserable 1 of 15 (6.7 percent) from beyond the arc.

The defense was needed. The Bulldogs shot 38.6 percent from the floor themselves, missing 13 consecutive shots in one second-quarter stretch.

“You’re telling me? I remember that,” Colfax coach Reece Jenkin said. “Thank goodness our defense allowed us to weather that storm a bit.”

With leading scorer Brandon Gfeller having an off shooting night – he was just 1 of 8 from beyond the arc and was 6 of 15 overall for his 14 points – others like Kasey Johnson (10 points) and Brady Ellis (nine) stepped up.

The Lind-Ritzville/Sprague Broncos, many of whom were on the team that won the State 2B football title over Morton-White Pass this fall, needed someone to step up late.

As per usual, according to coach Dustan Arlt, it was junior guard Dylan Hartz.

Tied at 44 with less than 2 minutes left, Hartz let fly a 23-foot jumper from the top of the key. He buried it. It was the last of his game-high 18 points.

“He kind of has a knack,” Arlt said. “He’s a big clutch player (who has) hit a lot of big shots over the years.”

Now the Broncos (22-8) will matchup with St. George’s in one semifinal tonight – a team they have lost to three times this season, all by double figures.

“We’re looking forward to it,” Arlt said. “We’ve been talking about it. … We don’t have to beat them every time, you just have to beat them at the right time.”

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