Make it five straight for the Gonzaga Prep boys basketball team over Richland.
In a game similar to battles the teams have had the past two seasons, Gonzaga Prep held off the Bombers 56-53 in the District 8 4A championship game Friday that turned into a grinder late in the second half.
The Bullpups (23-0), ranked No. 1 in the WIAA’s RPI, will await their regional assignment, which will be announced Sunday. That game will be in the Spokane area, most likely at University.
Richland (22-1) will also play near home in the Tri-Cities.
There’s a good chance the teams might meet again at state. If seeding holds, they’ll end up on the same side of the bracket and if they win state openers, they could meet in the semifinals.
“I think that will serve us well moving forward,” G-Prep coach Matty McIntyre said. “It certainly feels like state playoff basketball. Two really good teams. I think the fans got what they wanted.”
It’s the second straight year the teams have faced off for Eastern Washington bragging rights. G-Prep beat Richland three times last year, including pulling out an 81-80 win in triple overtime in the subregional final.
While the showdown Friday was nothing close to the high-scoring affair last year, it was nothing short of entertaining. Both teams worked extremely hard on defense with the Bullpups pulling down a pair of key offensive rebounds and making 5 of 7 free throws in the final 33 seconds to hold back the Bombers.
Anton Watson made 4 of 4 free throws in the final 21 seconds, his final two coming with 13 seconds remaining that put G-Prep ahead 56-51.
The Bullpups committed four turnovers earlier in the quarter, allowing Richland to pull within 49-47 with 3:01 to go.
After Liam Lloyd made two free throws to extend G-Prep’s lead to 51-47, Richland’s 7-foot-3 post Riley Sorn made two foul shots to cut the lead to 51-49 with 1:24 to go.
That’s as close as Richland would get.
The Bullpups played stingy defense in the first half, especially guarding the Bombers’ leading scorer Cole Northrup, the Mid-Columbia Conference most valuable player who entered the game averaging 19.4 points.
G-Prep’s best defender, Sam Lockett, drew the assignment against Northrup. He had two points in the opening 16 minutes as he made 1 of 4 shots.
Northrup finished with 16 points and Sorn had 19 to go with seven rebounds and six blocked shots.
The Bullpups finished the first quarter with a 9-2 surge for a 15-8 lead.
Jamaari Jones scored on a breakaway layup to give the Bullpups their biggest lead, 17-8, seconds into the second period.
The Bombers, sparked by Sorn and Cody Sanderson, cut the lead to 24-22 before the Bullpups took a 26-22 advantage into halftime.
In the fourth quarter, Richland sagged off to clog the key and welcome the Bullpups to shoot from the perimeter. More than anything, the offensive rebounds by Jones and Watson turned out to be back breakers in the final minute.
“I think a lot of it is our experience,” McIntyre said of his team’s tenacity late in the game. “The kids have a lot of composure. They’ve been in difficult situations in the past.”
Watson, whose team-high 19 points didn’t come easily, thought his team’s defense was critical in the fourth quarter.
“Basically, the whole point of the game was who was going to play harder,” Watson said. “Me and Jamaari talked at halftime and said we need to get rebounds and work our hardest.”
Jones finished with 15 points, a team-high 12 rebounds and four assists.
G-Prep held Richland to its lowest point total this season. The Bombers’ previous low was 66.
Richland coach Earl Streufert wasn’t happy with the loss but said his team can learn much from it.
“If you approach this loss as some monumental defeat you’re not a very good coach,” Streufert said. “We played ourselves into a chance to play against a really, really good team. We’re a really good team. They were better defensively than we were offensively.”
Lewis and Clark 57, Walla Walla 51: Naje Smith scored 18 points, Jonny Love added 14 and the Tigers (15-8) eliminated the Blue Devils (15-8) to earn a trip to the regional round of state.
Lewis and Clark led 33-24 at intermission, but Walla Walla’s Tyler Greene hit consecutive 3-pointers early in the fourth and the Devils tied it at 49 with just more than 2 minutes to go.
LC’s Xavier Guillory made both ends of a 1-and-1 and Griffin Effenberger’s runner made it a four-point game with 40 seconds left. Love made a pair with 19.5 seconds left to seal it.
“We missed a lot of bunnies tonight but to their credit they came back roaring,” LC coach Jim Redmon said. “I thought Griff’s power layup (at the end) really gave us a teeny bit of separation that allowed us to make a couple other plays happen.”
Effenberger ended up with 12 points.
Taylor Hamada led Walla Walla with 19 points and Greene finished with 15.
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