UNPUBLISHED CORRECTION: The name of football player Jeremey Williams is misspelled in this story. The correct spelling was confirmed by his mother.
Little things become big when the basketball season comes down to one game and the biggest player helps Ferris make all the little plays.
Jeremy Williams sparked the Saxons to a 42-38 overtime win over Gonzaga Prep Saturday afternoon at the Tri-Cities Coliseum to become the only Greater Spokane League team to grab one of the four berths to state out of the Lamb-Weston 4A Eastern Regional boys basketball tournament.
Williams, a nimble 6-foot-4, 240-pound center, scored nine points, grabbed 11 rebounds, had two assists, made two steals and created havoc in the middle on both ends of the court to send the Saxons to state for the second straight year and sixth time in the 11-year history of this regional format.
To reserve a trip to the Kingdome, though, Ferris (20-5) had to beat a scrappy Gonzaga Prep (10-16) team that finished sixth in the GSL and fourth in the district tournament, where it lost to the Saxons by 18.
“They’ve played some real good basketball since then,” Ferris coach Wayne Gilman said. “They were very aggressive, very competitive. They gave themselves a chance to win.”
The Bullpups led for all but a few minutes of the first 32 minutes of regulation but couldn’t come up with the one big play to win the game.
“In a close game against a good team, everything counts, free throws, getting good looks,” Prep coach Mike Haugen said. “They did a good job.”
The Saxons join Richland, a 54-49 winner over Walla Walla, and Davis and Wenatchee at state. Davis beat Wenatchee 78-58 for the region title.
Williams sent the game into OT with a three-point play with 1:37 to play. Then he started the OT with two free throws. Both plays came after he grabbed offensive rebounds. Williams even admitted he was a little nervous at the line.
“I remember the North Central game earlier,” he said. “I went to the line in the same predicament. We won but I didn’t make it. It’s concentration. You can’t panic, you can’t change anything. You have to focus.”
Prep missed several clutch free throws, finishing 9 of 19 from the line, and had some crucial turnovers down the stretch that changed the complexion of the game.
A missed free throw kept Prep from going ahead in overtime. After Williams scored, the Pups missed and Tommy Servine scored. The teams traded turnovers, then Prep made just 1 of 2 free throws, closing within 38-35 with 52 seconds left.
Then Ferris reserve Billy Sleeth swished a pair of free throws, giving the Saxons some breathing room.
Prep’s Matty McIntyre hit a 3, but Chris Watts sealed it for Ferris by beating the defense back for a dunk with 26 seconds to go.
“I thought the real key was in the second quarter when we got up by 10,” Haugen said. “They stepped up their defense and we became real stagnant. We were in a real position to do some damage.”
Servine had four points and an assist to help get the Saxons back, but the emotional turnaround came when Williams stole the ball and went in for a layup.
Prep started the second half quickly to go up 27-18 but went dry again. The Saxons closed the quarter with a 9-0 run to tie the game entering the fourth quarter.
Watts, who led Ferris with 15 points, scored to open the fourth quarter, but McIntyre responded with a 3 for Prep. Williams fed Watts to put the Saxons on top, but McIntyre scored off an Aaron Thielman assist and Zach Yarbrough made two free throws to put the Bullpups up 34-31 with 3:21 to play.
The Bullpups missed the front end of a one-and-one when they got the ball back, and after Williams’ three-point play, they turned the ball over with 43 seconds left. The Saxons missed a potential game-winner with 3 seconds left.
Ferris 42, Gonzaga Prep 38 (OT)
Ferris 8 10 9 7 8 -42
Gonzaga Prep 15 7 5 7 4 -38
FERRIS - Biggerstaff 0 0-0 0, Servine 4 1-2 10, Atkins 2 0-1 4, Sleeth 0 2-2 2, Watts 7 1-2 15, Hodl 1 0-0 2, Mietus 0 0-0 0, Williams 3 3-3 9. Totals 17 7-10 42.
GONZAGA PREP - Johnson 0 0-0 0, McIntyre 2 3-7 8, Thielman 3 0-0 8, Mahre 1 0-3 2, Dixson 2 1-3 7, Bacon 0 0-0 0, Hartnett 4 1-2 9, Yarbrough 0 4-4 4. Totals 12 9-19 38. 3-point goals - Servine, McIntyre, Thielman 2, Dixson 2. Total fouls - Ferris 17, GP 10. Fouled out - Hodl. Technical foul - Atkins.