TACOMA – Lake Washington boys basketball coach Brian Lund said University’s game plan looked like the Titans had the Kangaroos right where they wanted them – in their pouch.
Lund was right.
University coach Garrick Phillips asked senior 6-foot-5 post Conner Johnson to push Lake Washington’s 6-foot-10 post Darien Nelson-Henry off the block and toward the perimeter, where he isn’t as comfortable shooting.
Johnson was the Titans’ defensive most valuable player as U-Hi rallied in the fourth quarter to knock off the Kangaroos 60-55 in a State 3A tournament opener Thursday morning at the Tacoma Dome.
University’s girls also reached the semifinals, defeating Seattle Prep 45-34.
Boys: “It was almost football style to get (Nelson-Henry) off the block,” Lund said of Johnson’s defense. “My hat’s off to that team (U-Hi). They scouted us right and they did what they needed to do. That’s what I would have done against us.”
U-Hi led by as many as eight points in the second quarter only to watch the Kangaroos cut it to 31-28 by halftime.
LW used a 9-2 surge to open the second half to take a 37-33 lead. A basket by Matt Staudacher, who finished with a game-high 30 points, gave the Kangaroos a five-point lead going into the fourth quarter.
The Titans got a break at the 6:45 mark of the final period when Nelson-Henry, who was held to nine points, sprained his right ankle. He left the game with LW ahead 46-41, and by the time he returned with 3:32 to go, U-Hi had pulled within 52-51.
That’s when U-Hi senior point guard Jared Miller split LW’s defense twice on drives from the perimeter for layups that gave the Titans a 55-52 lead.
Brett Bailey and Zach Bruce each made a foul shot for U-Hi, Bruce’s shot giving the Titans a 57-52 lead with :45 to go.
Jeffery Staudacher then hit a 3-pointer from 26 feet, cutting the lead to 57-55. Miller hit two foul shots and Bruce made one as U-Hi held off LW.
U-Hi, which has struggled from the free-throw line all season, made just 16 of 30 shots.
“A couple of plays you could obviously see we were a little nervous,” said Bailey, who had a team-high 19 points and nine rebounds. “Once we got settled in we started to handle it and started to play our game.”
Zech Martin added 12 points, five rebounds and two steals.
“We were trying so hard to exploit matchups but we stopped playing,” U-Hi coach Garrick Phillips said. “We stood around and watched a little bit and that’s not who we are. … I just felt if we stuck to what we were trying to do and kept our movement that things were going to come around.”
Girls: Michaela Carew’s single free throw with 3:16 left in the first quarter was the only point Seattle Prep scored in the period. The Panthers went 0 for 11 from the field over the first 8 minutes.
“We were pretty prepared,” Titans coach Mark Stinson said. “And (assistant) coach (Mark) Kuipers had a good defense plan, obviously.”
University wasn’t all that much better at 4 for 13. But those field goals staked the Titans to a 10-1 lead after one quarter. University extended that advantage to 23-13 at the half.
“It’s the state tournament, and it’s tough to get the ball in the basket sometimes,” Stinson said. “How many easy ones did we miss? We could have had 50 (points) if we’d made those.”
But 45 points were enough against Seattle Prep.
University led this one wire to wire, getting 18 points and 15 rebounds from Kayleigh Valley, and 13 points and 13 rebounds from Hallie Gennett.