PULLMAN – Their coach was battling a case of Bronchitis, their top player was still getting over his flu and at least four other Pullman players were afflicted by a team-wide bug that caught the Greyhounds during their 12-day district tournament layoff.
Supposedly, the Hounds were sick as dogs. It never truly showed Wednesday night in the District 7 championship game.
Pullman’s romp of the 2A Great Northern League culminated on Valentine’s Day with a 58-47 victory over second-seeded West Valley. The Greyhounds (19-2, 13-0), No. 9 according to the WIAA’s ratings calculator, finish unbeaten against their rivals from the GNL and get the benefit of another long layover before playing an opponent to be determined in the regional round on Feb. 23.
No. 18 West Valley (15-8, 7-6) hosts the CWAC’s third seed, Toppenish, in a loser-out, winner-to-regionals contest Saturday night at 6.
Jake Wells scored 24 points on 9-of-14 shooting to lead the Greyhounds. Whenever West Valley defenders swarmed Pullman’s top player, Wells casually dished off to his teammates allowing the league MVP to complement his scoring load with five assists.
The Greyhounds were efficient shooters and ambitious rebounders. They made 21-of-41 attempts from the field and sank 8-of-10 free throws in the game’s final minute. On the glass, they hauled down 30 rebounds to West Valley’s 18.
Pretty good for a group of players that spoke with scratchy voices and wore long faces as they exited the gym Wednesday night.
“The first day of practice (after the semifinal game), I walked into the gym and just sent everyone home,” Pullman coach Craig Brantner said. “We were down to five guys. … Some guys would’ve had to not play (had we played) last week.”
Added Wells: “Isaiah (Strong), he’s still sick, Konner (Kinkade) is still sick, I’m just getting over it. So it’s just that we love basketball … a little sickness isn’t going to stop us from playing, so we’ll play our heart out until the final buzzer sounds.”
Wells stuffed 13 of his 24 points into the second quarter, contributing all but two Pullman points in the period to give the home team a 27-26 halftime edge. He got comfortable from the three-point arc, hitting three long ones before driving through the lane for a couple of layins.
“I looked up at the scoreboard,” Wells said, “and saw that we were down and so I just thought in my head, ‘I need to take over this game.’”
He did it later on, too, but not necessarily by looking for his own bucket.
The score was 42-38 when Wells let the shot clock run down to three seconds before whipping a pass to Kinkade on the left wing. Kinkade hoisted a 3-pointer to make it a seven-point game and when WV’s Kletis Hyrdrick launched consecutive treys to cut the Greyhound lead back to three points, it was Kinkade who once again rose up from beyond the arc to extend the Pullman advantage back out to six.
“Those were big shots tonight he hit,” Brantner said.
Connor Whitney led the Eagles with 17 points and Hydrick chipped in another 15.
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