The Breeze that was at the back of the Lake Roosevelt boys basketball team became a headwind at the worst possible time.
The Raiders, who seemed to be inspired the past month by the memory of their late principal Steve Breeze, mustered only seven points in the first half and never recovered, losing to Napavine 59-42 in the State 2B boys basketball tournament at the Arena Thursday afternoon.
“Obviously, we weren’t ready to go and that’s my fault,” LR coach Brad Wilson said. “I didn’t evaluate our state of mind. Usually we’re a pretty loose, free-flowing group. I thought we were very flat-footed, almost awestruck with the situation.”
In truth, the game had more to do with what the Raiders didn’t do and what the Tigers did.
Lake Roosevelt made only 3 of 18 shots in the first half.
“The first day at state, strange things happen,” Napavine coach Rex Stanley said. “It was one of those deals. I thought our defense was good, but they missed some shots they probably usually make.
“The big key was rebounding. They had one offensive rebound the first half, ended the game with four. That’s sort of what we built our game plan around. They’re going to get shots – don’t let them get two, three, four shots a possession.”
Breeze would have understood. Before he became the principal three years ago, he was a counselor and part of Wilson’s staff.
“He was a real kids’ principal,” Wilson said. “He wasn’t managing from the office.”
Cancer had come back to Breeze last spring, but there was no real indication he was that sick. He married the mother of LR junior Ty Egbert on a Saturday afternoon and went to the hospital Saturday evening. He died two days later, Feb. 7.
The Raiders played Oroville the next day. A team they had beaten by eight points earlier they crushed 75-23.
“It was unreal,” Wilson said. “We were inspired.”
Three days later came another 50-point win, followed by a memorial service at the high school the next day.
“That seemed to bring a lot of people together,” Wilson said. “(Breeze) had a lot of friends all over.”
An indication of that are the T-shirts many fans wore Thursday that reflected Breeze’s attitude: “Mean People Suck, Feel the Breeze.”
Without the Breeze, the team with just a couple of seniors never quite got untracked.
“Not very many of these guys played meaningful minutes last year,” said Wilson, who took LR to the past three State 1A tourneys. “I’m not very star-struck, but I may have underestimated that with some of our guys. I thought they were keyed up, ready to go. We definitely came to try to get a trophy. We still have that opportunity, but we definitely weren’t satisfied just to get here.”
“This new format, you don’t have a game to get your feet wet,” the Tigers’ Stanley said. “Eight teams left, everybody’s good. The first half couldn’t go any better. Our focus, everything, was spot on.”
The Tigers play Bear Creek, which outscored Waitsburg-Prescott 11-0 in overtime to win 58-47, in today’s 5:30 semifinal.
The 3:45 semifinal features a Bi-County rematch after Colfax and Northwest Christian survived a pair of close games. Colfax held off Adna 45-44 and the Crusaders edged La Conner 59-57.