The numbers were impressive.
Half of the teams in this year’s State 2B boys basketball field were from the Northeast 2B league.
Since the WIAA switched to an eight-team state tournament format three years ago, the league had been 11-3 against the state’s other leagues, with three different schools – Northwest Christian, Colfax and St. George’s – winning state titles.
But Thursday was different. Right from the start.
Undefeated Morton-White Pass (25-0, with an average victory margin of 35.1 points per game), which lost to St. George’s in the first round last season, took it to the Northeast 2B’s Lind-Ritzville/Sprague early, building a 22-point lead halfway through the third quarter.
“Last year we knew St. George’s was good, but we thought we were good too,” Timberwolves coach Tony Gillispie said, “and we were coming over here to win the gold ball. When that happened, when that dream was over the first day, we didn’t respond very well.
“We did not want to be put in that position again.”
They won’t be. Despite Lind-Ritzville/Sprague (23-5) stringing together a 22-4 run – powered by Dylan Hartz, who had 12 of his game-high 27 in the stretch – to close within six with 4 minutes left, the Timberwolves responded.
“I told them I thought we were settling for 3-pointers,” Gillispie said. “I said, ‘Hey, let’s start attacking more.’ ”
Kalen Dunlap and Kaleb Poquette, who combined for 22 points, did and after the schools split football state title games the past two years, M-WP had the bragging rights.
“Playing LRS a third time, maybe it’s a different sport, but we wanted to try to get up on them one,” Gillispie said.
The West Side got up another in the next game, with Bear Creek (22-2) defeating Northwest Christian, 57-53 in a game of runs.
“We had two spurts … where we’re just not very good,” said Bear Creek coach Scott Moe, whose team fell behind by eight in the second quarter to the NE 2B’s fourth-place Crusaders (17-12).
But they also had two big spurts, the first to get back in the game and the second to build a seven-point fourth-quarter lead that held up. Now they face Morton-White Pass in an all-West Side semifinal tonight.
“I don’t know if that’s good or not,” Moe said, smiling. “Those guys are really, really good. We’re going to have to play a little better than we did today.”
The NE 2B’s reputation was somewhat restored in the final two games, leaving Liberty and top-ranked St. George’s to meet in tonight’s late semifinal.
The Lancers (23-7) used a 16-2 run spanning halftime and 22 points from post Ryan Thayer – on 9-of-11 shooting – to put away Onalaska (20-7), 59-34. The Loggers went more than a quarter with just a lone put-back basket against Liberty’s matchup zone and shot 29 percent for the game.
The undefeated Dragons (28-0), winners of 48 consecutive games, dominated Mossyrock (18-6) 77-54 in a physical contest behind the 23 points of Will Tender and 22 of Dexter Sienko.
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