RICHLAND – Some guilt was still lingering in Anthony Brown’s mind Saturday afternoon when his Shadle Park Highlanders took on the West Valley Rams in a game to determine the 3A Eastern Region’s second and final berth to the boys state tournament.
“I felt I should have made some more shots in the fourth quarter,” Brown said of his performance in Friday night’s dramatic loss to GSL-rival Rogers in the regional championship game. “I wanted to make up for it today.”
Boy, did he ever. Brown buried a go-ahead 3-point shot with 25 seconds left and later converted a pair of free throws to lift the Highlanders to a 56-52 victory over the Rams at Hanford High School. Shadle Park (20-5) earned its second straight trip to State, which begins Wednesday morning at the Tacoma Dome.
“We knew it would be a tough game, especially after last night, but there was no way we were going to let our season end here,” said the WSU-bound Brown, who finished with a game-high 22 points. “We were all determined to get back to State.”
Shadle Park had less than 24 hours to recover from Friday’s 61-55 loss to Rogers, a game in which the Highlanders led until the final minute. But the Highlanders appeared to have plenty of pep left Saturday, building a small lead and maintaining it for most of the game.
Then, all of the sudden, things turned dicey. The Rams erased a seven-point deficit and took a 52-50 lead when star guard Matt Borton sank a 3-pointer with 42 seconds left.
The shot, however, did not seem to faze Brown, who answered with the eventual game-winner, a bomb from the right elbow that gave the Highlanders a 53-52 lead.
“I shot it with 110 percent confidence,” Brown said. “I was looking to drive to the basket, but I got a good look at the 3 and just let it fly. I knew it was in right when it left my hand.”
Brown then sank two free throws with 9.3 seconds remaining to extend the lead to 55-52. The Rams had a chance to tie the game but were whistled for traveling on a 3-point attempt. Shadle Park’s Taylor Pettersen iced the victory by making 1 of 2 free throws with 2.3 seconds left.
“There was a lot of pressure on these kids after losing last night,” said Shadle Park coach Tim Gaebe said. “We lost an emotional game against Rogers and then had to come back less so quickly and play another very good team. But the kids really responded in a big way. They gave it all they had.”
Pettersen gave most of what he had on the defensive end of the floor. Gaebe put the 6-foot-2 junior guard on the 6-5 Borton in the second quarter, and Pettersen proceeded to slow down the Rams star. Borton scored only six points in the second half and was just 7-of-19 shooting in the game.
“We were surprised by how well West Valley shot the ball, and we didn’t have an answer early on,” Gaebe said. “When we put Taylor on Borton, that seemed to change the tempo in our favor. We started making them work a little harder for their shots.”
Luke Jordan scored 16 points and Matt Barnes collected a game-high 14 rebounds for the Highlanders, but it was Brown who carried his team to state.
“He just took over,” Gaebe said. “He hit the big shot, he made the big free throws, he did it all. I’m so happy for him and all the seniors. They’ve worked so hard all season and know they’re being rewarded.”
In the game to determine the second seed to the girls tournament, Hanford defeated West Valley-Yakima 46-39.