It would be simple to point at a missed last-second 3-pointer as the difference in Morton-White Pass’ 54-51 State 2B championship game over defending champion St. George’s on Saturday in the Arena.
In the first matchup of undefeated teams in the B title game since 1966, there were many more differences. And, ultimately, very little.
• The Timberwolves, who won 27 games this season by an average of more than 30 points, started quickly. Mainly because Kalen Dunlap rediscovered his shot.
The senior – MWP’s leading scorer this season – was 1 of 18 on 3-point attempts in the first two tournament games. He nailed three long-range jumpers in the first 6 minutes en route to a team-high 19 points.
“If we were going to win this thing,” said Timberwolves coach Tony Gillispie, “he had to catch fire for us and he did.”
Did he ever. His early barrage helped Morton-White Pass to a 12-point halftime lead.
• The Timberwolves defense, built inside-out, “defended us as well as anyone did all year long,” according to St. George’s coach Ryan Peplinski.
The Dragons (29-1), who saw a 49-game winning streak snapped, shot 35 percent in the first half as MWP tried to take away 6-foot-7 post Dexter Sienko.
“We have to help down on Sienko,” Gillispie said. “We have nobody who can match up to a 6-7 kid.”
Despite double- and triple-teaming, Sienko still got loose for a game high 25 points on 9-of-13 shooting. But the rest of the Dragons were 9 of 30, just 3 of 15 on 3-point attempts.
• The Dragons also struggled with their free throws, something they had been converting at better than 70 percent this season.
As St. George’s rallied in the second half – MWP led 40-27 with less than 2 minutes left in the third – the Dragons forced turnovers, attacked and got to the line. But they only converted 12 of 21 free throws overall, 5 of 10 in the second half.
• The final minutes featured lost opportunities for both, with St. George’s pulling within one, 50-49, on a Sienko post move with 1 minute, 13 seconds left. But Dunlap hit three free throws, Zach Walton added another and all the Dragons could answer with was two Sienko free throws.
St. George’s missed its final three shots, including Erik Muelheims’ 3-point attempt, a good look in the waning seconds.
“He’s so clutch,” Peplinski said of the senior who finished with 13 points. “He just made a big 3 right before that. He’s a winner.”
But this time it was Morton-White Pass who had the gold ball.