KENNEWICK – Lewis and Clark got the better of the tempo in the first half of the nightcap during the 4A regional semifinal basketball games in the Toyota Center.
But in the third quarter Walla Walla turned the game into a whirlwind on its way to a 50-35 victory.
The Blue Devils (18-7), trailing 24-17 after LC’s Austin Ehlo opened the third quarter with a basket, went on a 17-2 tear and left the Tigers (14-11) in their wake.
The loss drops LC into the loser’s bracket today in a 1 p.m. game against Gonzaga Prep. The Bullpups eliminated Wenatchee 76-60. The teams have met three times this season with G-Prep holding a 2-1 edge, including a two-point victory in the district tournament.
The G-Prep-LC winner plays the winner of the Richland-Pasco matchup for the region’s third and last state berth at 7 p.m.
Most of Walla Walla’s damage was done by guard Gary Winston, who scored 17 of his game-high 25 points in the second half. He was so effective that Winston became essentially a one-man team at one point, scoring 17 of 31 Walla Walla points as the lead stretched to 47-31. Included were nine in a row in the fourth quarter and 11 of 13 during a four-minute span.
LC went five minutes without scoring in falling behind 30-24 in the third quarter after taking its biggest lead. The team scored but nine points during 13½ minutes of the 16-minute second half and finished with 13 in the half.
“We got soft,” Tigers coach Jeff Norton said. “We thought we were going to get it handed to us and didn’t realize they were playing 16 minutes to go to state, too. I’m disappointed.”
In the first half, Ehlo and Levi Taylor each had seven points and Sean Hoffman six as LC took a 22-17 advantage at halftime. But Taylor, with Mac Richards hanging all over him for an extended period, got called for the foul and eventually had to sit with two. Hoffmann also picked up his second foul and had to sit as did point guard Taylor Eglet.
“I had to sit them down, but we finished the half well, and started the third quarter OK,” Norton said.
Still, while the Tigers had a nearly 2-to-1 advantage in field goals, it was the Blue Devils who spent the half at the line, making 7 of 10. LC made good on its two attempts.
LC was content in taking its time with the ball and it worked to an early 8-2 advantage.
Winston wiped out the lead before late baskets by Ehlo, a 3-pointer, and Eglet made it 13-8 after a quarter. Taylor scored twice in the second quarter and Ehlo scored with 1 minute, 42 seconds left for the final points before intermission to maintain the lead.
The Blue Devils took only 12 shots the entire half, seven by Winston.
The second half was a different story. Walla Walla made 13 of 17 shots and a deficit that had been 24-17 became a 47-31 lead. Winston proved unstoppable with an assortment of to-the-basket moves as well as some sweet outside shooting. He was 8 for 10 over the final two quarters.
Ehlo finished with 12 points. Taylor had just one more basket in the game.
“We were not physical or mentally very tough,” Norton said. “You don’t go to state that way. It makes for a big challenge. We’ll find out (today) if we deserve to go.”
Gonzaga Prep 76, Wenatchee 60: In an up-and-down loser-out game that lasted until 11 p.m. on a court whose score clock had malfunctioned, the Bullpups (21-3) outmanned the Panthers (15-11). They jumped to a seven-point lead after a quarter and finished with a 25-point fourth period.
It was an inside-outside job. Inside, Ryan Nicholas made 8 of 14 field-goal attempts and all seven free throws to finish with 23 points and nine rebounds. Travis Long added 12 points. Outside, Sean Fischer was 7 for 11 from the field and had 18 points. Both he and David Stockton, who scored 15, hit two 3 pointers.