After the pain of losing to Northwest Christian in last year’s title game, Jarod Gunning knew there was one way for the Davenport Gorillas to lick their wounds: use the loss as motivation for the following year.
The only thing between them and a return visit were the undersized Pe Ell Trojans.
But what the Western Washington team lacked in size was more than compensated for in energy and scrappiness, surging off a passionate crowd of hometown support that was in full throat for the entire contest Friday as the Trojans held off Davenport 52-45 in the State 2B basketball tournament semifinals at the Arena.
“It was pretty apparent from the start they wanted it a little bit more than us,” senior guard Joey Gunning said. “I think (the noise) definitely got to us a little.”
Despite the deafening shrills cascading down, Davenport did themselves no favors with their shooting. The Gorillas were awful from beyond the arc – a team strength coming into the game – hitting just 3 of 23.
“We’d have had this game easy if we’d have made a third of our 3-pointers,” senior guard Cody Hopkins said. “I don’t know how to explain what happened. Nobody was hitting any of their shots.”
Equally baffling was the lack of inside scoring for Davenport, where the Gorillas certainly held a towering advantage over Pe Ell. Six-foot-5 Josh Zeiler and 6-9 Morgan Scharff, averaging a combined 35 points during the season, were held to just 12.
Cole Evers picked up the slack, posting 16 of his team’s 23 first-half points off the bench en route to 22 points and 10 rebounds.
But a poor fourth quarter did in Davenport, scoring just four points in the final frame. Pe Ell’s Hank Robinson put in a crafty up-and-under layup to break the deadlock at 5:15 of the fourth, and Tyler Ratkie converted a three-point play on the next trip down court to make it 46-41.
Joseph Vetter tipped out an important offensive rebound to Ratkie, who was fouled and went 1 of 2 at the line to make it 51-45 with 20 seconds left.
“We rebounded really well,” Pe Ell head coach Clayburn Lusk said, as his Trojans held a 39-36 edge on the glass. “Rebounding’s very big for us – it triggers a lot of what we do on offense.”
Davenport misfired on the ensuing possession and the game was essentially over.
Joey Gunning had breathed some life into Davenport’s comeback hopes when he sank a 3-pointer a step from his own bench to knot the game at 41 going into the fourth quarter.
“That was a huge shot,” Gunning said. “Maybe the whole team should have taken a couple steps back. Maybe we would have made a few more.”
Davenport never retook the lead in the fourth, making only one field goal the rest of the way. In what the Gorillas hoped to use as a stepping stone to redemption, Gunning said the loss took on a different feel this year.
“It’s a different type of disappointment,” Gunning said. “It’s a disappointment knowing it’s over now. We won’t be able to feed off it, because we won’t be back again.”