YAKIMA – Freeman coach Marty Jessett has never had a problem focusing his team on its ultimate goal – a return trip to the state championship game – this season.
Friday night at the SunDome, the Scotties got a plate of sweet revenge against the King’s team that beat them for the title in 2016, toppling the Knights 43-34 in the State 1A tournament.
Freeman (24-1) will play Zillah at 5 p.m. tonight for their first state title just a year after being handled easily by King’s in the 2016 title game.
As much as Freeman has been focused on a return to the title game, Jessett noted that they have been inspired by the battle their principal – Jim Straw – has been fighting Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
After the game the team huddled around the ailing Straw – who watched the game from a wheelchair – to celebrate midcourt.
Freeman won despite an off night from one of its leaders, Michael Coumont, who struggled with foul trouble. But the other leader, senior Ryan Maine, stepped up to pick up his teammate.
Coumont, who had 32 points against Warden in the quarterfinals, didn’t score until he hit a coast-to-coast layin with 4 minutes,35 seconds remaining in the third in the final period.
But his deep 3-pointer at 6:38 gave Freeman a six-point lead and seemed to energize the Scotties’ defense for the stretch run.
He picked up his fourth foul about a minute later and went to the bench.
No matter. Maine hit a jumper and a deep 3-pointer followed by Dylan Oja’s breakaway layin. Suddenly, Freeman had a 10-point lead with 2:32 to play.
Jessett noted after the game that Maine’s effort aside, the game was won on the defensive and with rebounding, where Freeman had a five-board advantage. Oja and Maine had eight each for the Scotties.
Maine finished with 20 points and eight rebounds.
“We’ve been looking toward this day for a long time,” Maine said after the team gathered with its principal.
“We really wanted to get back here and finish what we started last year. We learned so much from that and it feels so good to be back.”
Jessett wasn’t surprised by Maine’s play or leadership.
Ryan’s been doing that all year for us,” Jessett said. “With Michael in foul trouble, he was there to pick us up.”
Even without Gonzaga-bound Corey Kispert – out with an injured foot – beating the Knights was big for Freeman.
“We knew they were a great team and a great program and we were rooting for them last night so we could play them,” Jessett said. “We really wanted a chance to redeem ourselves. Last year was bad for us.”
Newport 49, Cascade Christian 41: Danny Bradbury scored 16 points and the Grizzlies (17-10) beat the Cougars (14-13) in the consolation bracket.
Grayson Jones led Cascade Christian with 10 points.
Newport will face La Center in the fourth-place game at 9:30 a.m. Saturday
State 2A boys
Anacortes 79, Pullman 66: Trystan Lowry scored 26 points and the Seahawks (21-3) eliminated the Greyhounds (20-7).
Tim Pendry led Pullman with 17 points. Jacob Wells scored 15 points, Jake Cillay had 13 points with 11 rebounds and Jared Anderson added 12.
Anacortes will face North Kitsap in the fourth-place game on Saturday.
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