Of course it was going to go to overtime. What came next?
Anton Watson – who else – nailed a 3-pointer from NBA distance off an inbounds play as time expired in the extra session and No. 1 seed Gonzaga Prep (25-0) edged fourth-seeded Richland (24-2) 53-50 in a state 4A semifinal showdown at the Tacoma Dome on Friday.
The Bullpups play in the state title game on Saturday at 3 p.m. while Richland plays in the third-place game at 1 p.m.
This was Gonzaga Prep’s third consecutive year in the state semifinals and its first trip back to the title game since 2011.
Watson finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while Jamaari Jones added 10 points and 13 boards.
Cole Northrop led Richland with 16 points. Garrett Streufert had 13 points with 13 boards and Cody Snaderson added 11 points.
“That’s the way we drew it up,” Gonzaga Prep coach Matty McIntyre said. “We wanted to get the ball in Anton’s hands and he can make a decision.
“We were in the double bonus and he could have put the ball on the bounce, gone to the rim, could have drawn a foul. He liked the look, I guess.”
“Just give me a shot at the end,” Watson said. “Just let me do me. Felt pretty good coming off the hand.”
“We just expect it from that guy,” said Jamaari Jones. “I love that guy.”
It’s the sixth time these teams have matched up over the past three seasons, with Gonzaga Prep the winner each time, including the memorable three-overtime affair for a state tourney berth in 2017, a state consolation game three weeks later and this season’s District 8 title game, a three-point win that wasn’t decided until Watson made 4 of 4 free throws in the final 21 seconds.
So to say the two teams were familiar opponents in an understatement.
“This game was not about basketball. It was about something else,” McIntyre said. “I’ve got tough kids. Toughness prevailed.
“It didn’t matter about the free-throw shooting, field-goal percentage and all of that stuff. This was something different. This was about toughness.”
“It was a good game,” said Richland’s 7-foot-3 center Riley Sorn. “We played pretty well. First half we kind of took it to them.
“Second half we kind of maintained and when you maintain you don’t end up winning games like that. That’s what it came down to.”
Sorn had six points, seven rebounds and four blocked shots.
The Pups went right at Sorn early, with Sam Lockett. Jamaari Jones and even Jacob Parola charging the basket on offense.
After, Liam Lloyd and Lockett drilled 3-pointers to loosen the defense up and open a 10-4 lead.
“That was our game plan from the beginning,” Watson said. “Go at him. Try to dunk on him. Just get him tired and get him jumping. Get him off the ground. We did a pretty good job with that.”
Late in the first quarter, Parola made a diving save on a ball near midcourt which sprung Watson on a fastbreak. The junior put it down with authority at the other end.
“You’ve got to have those kind of plays, those kinds of kids,” McIntryre said of Parola’s effort.
Largest cheers of the quarter, though, came at the end, when Devin Culp drew a charge against Sorn in the big man’s first offensive effort.
Prep led 15-6 after one.
But you knew Richland wasn’t going to lay down.
The Bombers went on an eight-point run, including back-to-back 3-pointers by Cole Northrop. G-Prep answered with a four-point spurt, including a baby hook by Culp over Sorn.
All told, Richland outscored the Bullpups 20-8 in the frame and led 26-22 at intermission.
Prep had more fouls than made baskets at the break at 10-8, and shot just 27.6 percent.
Richland’s Garrett Streufert drilled a 3 to open the third quarter and the Bombers got the lead to six on a short jumper by Streufert a few moments later.
Richland got a couple of layups by Northrop to close the quarter and led 39-36 after three. The Bombers picked up the first two buckets of the fourth quarter to wind it out to 43-36.
Watson got loose for an inside basket and Jones scored with a finger roll off a fastbreak to put it back to a three-point game.
The Pups then went on a 10-2 run – six coming from Watson – to retake the lead at 46-45 with 2:51 left.
With 1:06 left Richland got into a half-court set but threw it out of bounds. Jones grabbed a steal and went the length for a slam and three-point lead.
Richland rushed it up court and Streufert heaved it from 30 feet. Of course it went in, and it went to overtime.
Watson opened overtime with a dunk over Sorn. On the next possession, Watson swatted Sorn face-to-face and on Richland third trip down the Bombers threw it away.
Prep called time with 1:24 left in overtime, Watson’s dunk the only basket at the time.
Locket picked up his fifth foul with 1:02 left and Northrop made both to tie it.
Prep couldn’t get the ball in Watson’s hand and Parola missed a 3. Richland came down with it and called time with 22.2 seconds left.
Northrop’s 3-point attempt was long. Parola gathered it and got it into the frontcourt where McIntyre got a timeout from the bench with 3.4 seconds to go.
The rest is history.
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