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Crusaders take down Republic Tigers

J.D. Larson Correspondent

It wasn’t quite David and Goliath, but Northwest Christian head coach Ray Ricks read it to his team anyway to convince them of the potential of the underdog.

NWC got the message, played the game at its tempo and upset Republic 59-53 in a District 7 B semifinal game at Mt. Spokane.

With the win, the Crusaders (22-3) will face Bi-County rival Lind-Ritzville in the District 7 championship game on Saturday at 5:15 at Mt. Spokane High School. L-R beat Selkirk 59-54 in the other semifinal. Both teams earned State B berths with the win

Republic (23-2) averages 83.7 points a game, but struggled shooting the ball in the first half, only 8 for 22 (36.4 percent) while NWC built a 27-20 lead. The loss snapped a 16-game winning streak dating back to an 81-69 loss to Brewster on Dec. 21.

“If we shoot the ball better in the first half, we might be able to pull it out,” Republic head coach John Gianukakis said. “Without a doubt, they were better than us tonight. You’ve got to put the ball in the basket.”

With the seven-point halftime advantage, the Crusaders ground the game to a halt, using 30 seconds to a minute per possession in the second half. NWC executed well in the half-court set to take a 51-36 lead with 2:55 remaining.

“I just think they’ve been in a lot of full-court games,” Ricks said. “We knew we were just working on execution and trying to spread them out. We definitely hoped they wouldn’t shoot well.”

Republic wasn’t out of it even down 15 with 3 minutes left, though. The Tigers scored 15 points in two minutes, including eight points from sophomore Derek Gianukakis, to pull to 56-53 with 22 seconds left.

NWC senior point guard Jesse Vowels went to the line and sealed the game with 19 seconds left, capping off six straight free throws by Vowels in the last minute.

“Me and my buddy Josh Greer shot free throws all summer long,” said Vowels, who finished with 10 points and seven assists at the helm of the Crusaders’ offense. “We imagined being here, knowing it would be on the line.”

Greer led NWC in scoring with 23 points and junior post Karl Richardson added 15 points and seven rebounds.

Derek Gianukakis led Republic with 17 points and six rebounds, but his brother Zach, a junior, averaging 19.7 a game during the regular season, hit only 4 of 14 shots for 13 points. Zach and fellow guard Tyler Orestad combined for 11 assists, but also nine turnovers in the face of a sticky 2-3 zone.

Republic has to bounce back Friday night in a loser-out, winner-to-state game against Liberty.

“We expect to play better,” John Gianukakis said. “We knew we had to win one of two to get in and now we’re in a loser-out game.”

Lind-Ritzville 59, Selkirk 54

An adequate comparison for L-R’s basketball team would be its football team. The only thing the hardwood squad is missing, it seems, is Mike Lynch on the sidelines and a power running game.

L-R (24-1) bullied its way to a five-point win over Selkirk (16-9) and its first State B tournament trip since 2001 thanks to a nine-player rotation, eight of which played for the state championship football team.

In the first half, it was the one who didn’t who kept them in the game.

Broncos junior wing Cameron Stevenson hit six consecutive 3-pointers in the first half, including four during a 6-minute span in the second quarter to help L-R take a 29-22 lead into the break.

Stevenson, who finished with 20 points, scored two in the second half before leaving with a cut on his lower lip suffered while fouling Selkirk’s Travis Zimmerman midway through the third quarter. Stevenson couldn’t get the bleeding stopped, so senior and EWU-bound football player Jake Kragt took over the paint.

Kragt scored 13 points and pulled down 10 rebounds, nearly all in the second half after first-half foul trouble.

“He’s just tremendous underneath,” L-R head coach Dwight Pflugrath said of Kragt. “We miss him when he’s not out there.”

When he wasn’t out there, it was 5-9 junior Nick Ashley playing the role of stopper, and locking down the Rangers down low.

“Nick really stepped up without him,” Pflugrath said of Ashley, who had 15 Monday to lead the Broncos in a first-round win. “He’s the guy saving our bacon.”

Jon McPherson added 13 points for the Broncos. Matt Reed led Selkirk with 17 points, shooting 5 of 8 from the 3-point line. Sophomore post Travis Zimmerman added 14 points and seven rebounds for the Rangers, who move on to play Wellpinit in a loser-out, winner-to-state game Friday.

L-R moves on to play a familiar opponent in the championship as they see Bi-County rival NWC for the fourth time this year. The Broncos won the first three meetings by six, six and 16.

“We’re going to need to get a scout tape on them,” Pflugrath joked. “It’s a battle with them each time.”

Liberty 65, St. George’s 56: At Mead, Aaron Weis scored a career-high 21 points to keep the Lancers (15-11) alive. Andrew Canning added 15 points and iced the game with six straight free throws down the stretch to beat the Dragons (12-14).

Wellpinit 57, Valley Christian 53: Norbert Abrahamson scored nine of his 11 points in the fourth quarter to help the Redskins (15-11) come from behind to beat the Panthers (14-12) at Mead. Preston Wynne added 12 points, 12 rebounds and five assists.

District 9 Boys

Garfield-Palouse 50, Tri-Cities Prep 45: Luke Louden scored 16 points and pulled down 20 rebounds to give the Vikings (17-8) the win in a loser-out game at Washington State University over the Jaguars (15-10). Garrett Parrish added 16 to help the Vikings into a loser-out game against Tekoa-Oakesdale on Friday. Matt Roper hit both ends of a one-and-one with 11.6 seconds left to seal the win for Gar-Pal.

Tekoa-Oakesdale 63, St. John-Endicott 53: The Nighthawks hit 7 of 8 free throws down the stretch to put away the Eagles (15-11) in a loser-out game at WSU. Derek Flock had 20 points and 12 rebounds for T-O (18-6), which shot 52 percent from the field in the second half to break a 31-all halftime tie. Austin Cook had 14 and Tyler Young 13 for the Nighthawks. Jesse Butcher had 23 points, seven rebounds and seven assists for SJE, and Bryce Johnson added 19.

Girls

LaCrosse-Washtucna 47, Tekoa-Oakesdale 39: In a loser-out game at WSU, the Tigercats hit 7 of 10 shots in the fourth quarter to pull away from T-O (16-9) for L-W’s fourth win over the Nighthawks this season. Jennifer Ayers-Stamper had 10 points and 12 rebounds for L-W, which moves on to play Friday morning at 11 against Dayton in another loser-out game. Alyssa Koller had 13 points to lead L-W in scoring.

Dayton 49, Liberty Christian 47: Heather Lambert stole the inbounds pass and laid it in with 22 seconds left to give the Bulldogs (18-7) a win over the Patriots (16-9) at WSU.

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