The University boys basketball team had an inside-out approach Friday.
And it’s opposite of what University usually tries to do, but it proved especially effective as the Titans pulled away from the Kennedy Catholic Lancers 68-59 in a 3A Regional game at Central Valley.
University (15-9) advances to Tacoma when the state tournament begins Thursday at the Tacoma Dome.
The teams played evenly in the first half – even though the Titans twice had good leads.
In the third quarter, the teams traded baskets seemingly on every possession. But the Titans’ efforts to get the ball into post Ben Kuiper ultimately took a toll.
The Lancers took the Titans’ perimeter attack away, forcing U-Hi to go inside. Kuiper finished with a team-high 17 points, eight rebounds and three assists.
“We had a good size advantage and we know Ben can score on any one on any given night,” guard Michael Isotalo said. “We tried to get it in as much as possible.”
Two late baskets by Kuiper helped the Titans pull away.
“We wanted that ball in the post even more than we got it there,” U-Hi coach Garrick Phillips said.
The Lancers pulled within 56-55 but the Titans finished with a 12-4 surge.
“We started playing lock down on defense and continued to get it into the post and that’s what worked for us,” said Isotalo, who had 15 points and five rebounds.
U-Hi point guard Garrett Schmerer dumped many of the entry passes inside, finishing with six assists. He also had 13 points and seven rebounds.
“They did a nice job on the perimeter,” Phillips said of the Lancers defense. “They knew we’re a perimeter-oriented team. Ben turned out to be the difference, for sure. We had to take what they gave us. Our guards were basically occupying people so we made sure we had one-on-one opportunities in the post.”
Phillips said his team didn’t play well at times.
“Look at our execution, we didn’t execute well offensively but we made plays,” he said. “That’s playoff basketball. That’s a very good team (Kennedy). They sort of took us out of what we wanted to do but my kids showed a lot of heart.”