It was a seemingly innocuous fall, a bruise on the arm that put West Valley’s leading scorer on the bench for the rest of the first half. But those few moments Jordan Lupfer-Graham laid on the hardwood seemingly lit a fire under the Eagles.
With 3 minutes, 50 seconds left in the first half, and Pullman leading by 11, West Valley hit its first bucket of the second quarter. Then another and another, closing the period on a 16-5 run that had the Eagles running to the locker room pumping their fists, tied at 29.
When they came back out, the Eagles – and Lupfer-Graham – were ready grab the victory.
The fourth-seeded Eagles shot their way to a 70-50 win over the top-seeded Greyhounds in a winner-to-state game of the District 7 2A boys basketball tournament at Pullman.
WV will open state play Wednesday in Tacoma.
“Our leading scorer, Jordan, goes down and hurts his elbow and everybody else just stepped up,” said WV coach Jamie Nilles. “It kinda turned the game around a little bit. But the kids who stepped up … they just do a great job.”
The momentum changed in WV’s favor with just a few seconds left in the first half, when the Eagles’ two leading scorers combined for the tying play. Senior guard James Cahalan missed a 3-point shot, but point guard Parker Flynn was there with a putback to tie the game at the buzzer.
Flynn led all scorers with 23 points on 9-for-11 shooting. Cahalan was the Eagles’ go-to-guy beyond the arc, tallying 20 points with six 3-pointers.
“(Cahalan) loves this atmosphere, because he’s going to WSU next year,” Nilles said.
It was WV’s perimeter shooting that gave Pullman (18-3) the most trouble, Greyhounds coach Craig Brantner said.
“I think we had a real hard time guarding their three guards out front,” he said. “We knew that was going to be a problem for us.”
The Greyhounds opened the game on a 14-4 run as WV (15-7) had trouble finishing buckets. At the beginning of the second quarter, Pullman forced four turnovers in five Eagles’ possessions and kept WV without a field goal until after Lupfer-Graham got hurt.
Then the Eagles found their tempo, Nilles said. WV outscored Pullman 23-7 in the third quarter with its motion offense.
“When they went to the motion stuff, we had a hard time defending them,” Brantner said.
Pullman bounced back to within eight points in the fourth quarter on a 10-2 run, taking advantage of WV turnovers and Flynn’s missed bonus free throws. But guard Anthony Sanford’s clinch 3-pointer with just more than 3 minutes left was Pullman’s last from the field.
The Greyhounds started fouling – first unintentionally, then intentionally – and the Eagles sealed their victory by making 11 of 12 free throws.
Mostly on runners and layups, Sanford led Pullman with 14 points.
WV will play Clarkston at 8:15 p.m. Friday for the district championship. Pullman will play Cheney at 7:30 p.m. Saturday for a chance to travel to Tacoma as the No. 3 seed. Both games are at Eastern Washington University.
Clarkston 53, Cheney 46: Dale Entel’s 13 points led four players in double figures, and Dustin McConnell hit 6 of 6 free throws in the fourth quarter as the Bantams (15-6) qualified for state by defeating the Blackhawks (15-7).
DeAngelo Jones scored 13 points for Cheney.
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