Arrow-right Camera

Curlew Catches Breaks To Reach The Semifinals Unplanned 3-Point Shot Leads To Game With Valley Christian

The old ‘oops’ play came to Curlew’s rescue Thursday.

The Cougars, coming off Wednesday’s emotional win over top-ranked Pateros, needed every break they could get during a 55-51 quarterfinal win over La Conner.

Even a 3-pointer that wasn’t supposed to be.

Erich Prazak hit the 3 in question with 1 minute, 16 seconds left to snap a 49-all tie, and Curlew held on to move into today’s semifinals of the 56th boys State B basketball tournament at the Arena.

Curlew had designed a different play for the big moment, but Prazak turned into a free-lancer.

“Oops,” Prazak said. “It wasn’t supposed to be a 3. It was a pick-and-roll (to Gunner Olsen), but nobody was open.”

The Cougars’ opponent at 8:30 tonight is old District 7 buddy Valley Christian (24-2), which notched its 12th consecutive win by pulling away from DeSales 63-46 in Thursday’s late quarterfinal.

VC edged Curlew 65-62 at last week’s district semifinal.

The buzzsaw VC defense turned mean when DeSales (19-6) opened the second half with a 10-2 spurt to pull within two points. DeSales was limited to eight points for the next 8 minutes.

VC players expected another game with Curlew, although they haven’t watched one state-tourney game.

“We’re here to participate and not spectate,” said Panthers senior guard Michael Spuler, who started the telling 10-0 third-quarter run with baskets 30 seconds apart.

“Yeah, (Curlew) has entered our minds,” Spuler added. “We thought we’d meet them again at state.”

The early game nearly slipped away from Curlew when an inspired Braves defense clamped down on Olsen and Jeremy Groth during a third quarter that La Conner won 19-8. What had been a 10-point Cougars lead became a one-point Braves edge.

“They started playing great ‘D’ and got into a rhythm,” said Olsen, who scored 17 of his 21 points in the first half. “It took us a while to get it back.”

La Conner maintained a slight lead through much of the fourth quarter, but Curlew finally slowed down Brandon Odell. The senior wing had cashed in for 23 points through three quarters, with each Cougars defender taking their shot at Odell and generally losing.

The tone of the game changed when La Conner went to a slow-down style, looking for easy open shots, at 3:30 to go with a 47-44 lead.

Groth hit a baseline shot at 2:07, then was fouled by Daren Nystrom while attempting a 3-pointer a half-half minute later. He drained all three shots for a 49-all tie, setting up Prazak’s big 3-pointer.

Curlew needed three more free throws, two by Groth and one by Prazak, in the final 26 seconds to hold tight.

La Conner tried to work a 3-pointer to Odell with 12 seconds left, but Olsen blocked the shot and Prazak secured the rebound.

“I didn’t feel we got any breaks tonight,” said Braves coach Scott Novak. “But we have to get over it and hope to bring home a trophy.”

“This was the first close game we’ve won all year,” Prazak said. “We’ve lost three others by a total of six points.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo