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Grip on Sports: From Gonzaga’s win to prep title games, Saturday was filled with hoops

Gonzaga guard Silas Melson (0) fouls Loyola Marymount guard James Batemon (5) during the second half of a West Coast Conference Basketball Championships men's quarterfinal game, Sat., March. 3, 2018, at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
Gonzaga guard Silas Melson (0) fouls Loyola Marymount guard James Batemon (5) during the second half of a West Coast Conference Basketball Championships men's quarterfinal game, Sat., March. 3, 2018, at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

A GRIP ON SPORTS • Let’s see. There were college basketball games early. Then high school games. And then more college and high school games. It was a basketball-filled Saturday, wasn’t it? Read on.

••••••••••

• It’s was sort of appropriate the Gonzaga game was one of the last Saturday night, though, due to work demands, it was impossible to fall asleep either during the first-half snoozefest or right after it was over.

A combination of – take your pick – lackadaisical play from GU, Loyola Marymount’s desire to slow the tempo, monotone analysis or way-too-many whistles conspired to make the West Coast Conference quarterfinal one for the record books. Filled under “zzzzz.”

But that’s not unusual for the Zags and this round of the WCC tournament, as some links we will share below attest.

At least, for the Spokane-area sports fans, the Bulldogs won. The Washington State home finale against Oregon State was about as boring – and was accompanied by the Cougars being boat-raced by 25 points. A nice way to say goodbye to your seniors, no? No, it’s not.

The best way is with a win. But this time of year, few teams get to end that way.

In the high school ranks, there are some consolation games – we watched a couple on SWX during the day, though they came without announcers – which allow teams that didn’t make the title game to end on an up note.

But the state title games can bring either intense joy or heartache, and sometimes both. In the span of a few seconds.

Some local teams either rallied for late wins – think Gonzaga Prep’s boys in the Washington 4A final against Federal Way – or rolled to easy ones – Central Valley’s girls were the prime example of this.

Many of you probably had personal connections to teams trying to win titles, and that makes your interest a tad more intense. We were in that category.

Four years ago, I selected three seventh-grade boys to join my eighth-grade summer travel team. The boys, Jonny Hillman, Eric Farias and Anton Watson, were special.

Over the course of spring and summer that year, they bonded together. So much so they become the core of an eighth-grade AAU group I was lucky enough to coach. The trio went through some 70 practices and played more than 50 games together in a year’s span.

And then they headed off to three different high schools. All three of their schools were playing for state titles yesterday, the last day of their junior seasons. So I paid attention.

Hillman’s Genesis Prep squad won their second consecutive 1A Division II title, with Hillman pouring in a game-high 21 points. In Washington, Farias’ St. George’s team came up short against Kittitas/Thorpe in the 2B final. And Watson, who has committed to play at Gonzaga, led the Bullpups to the 4A title with 22 points and the MVP trophy.

Not a perfect day, but one worth watching. And reveling in.

•••

WSU: The Cougars will open the Pac-12 tournament at 8:30 Wednesday night against Oregon in the final first-round game. They’ll need to play more like they did against the Ducks last Thursday than they did against OSU last night if they want to have a chance. Theo Lawson was in Beasley and has this game story. … Elsewhere in the Pac-12, all the tournament seedings were decided, and possibly an NCAA at-large berth or two as well. With Oregon going into Seattle and topping Washington, the Huskies may well be outside looking in unless they win the conference tournament. … The same can be said of USC, which lost to crosstown rival UCLA for the second time this season, this one at home. … Arizona State, despite some of the nation’s best nonconference results, may have played itself out of an at-large berth recently, losing Saturday at home to Stanford and sinking to ninth in the Pac-12. … Arizona is going to the NCAA, even though it struggled a bit at home with lowly California. … Utah had little trouble with mountain rival Colorado. Will both end up in the NIT or will the Utes make the big tournament? 

Gonzaga: Mark Few has seen this Vegas show before and he’s not a big fan. The Zags have struggled in their quarterfinals against the WCC’s lower seeds, though losing hasn’t been in the cards. It wasn’t last night either, as Jim Meehan’s game analysis covers. Jim also has his three keys to the victory. … Few and assistant Tommy Lloyd are not just coaches, they are fathers of high school players as well. They were interested in G-Prep’s weekend, which is the subject of John Blanchette’s column from Las Vegas. … The game was not just a battle for GU, it was for radio play-by-play announcer Tom Hudson as well. Whitney Ogden has that story as well as the news five Gonzaga players were named to the WCC’s all-tournament team for the conference’s first decade in Las Vegas. … Whitney also covers the outstanding performance of Loyola Marymount’s James Batemon. … Dan Pelle and Colin Mulvany are also in Vegas and they combined for the photo report. … The guys in the office put together the always-fun highlights package. … I watched from home and commented upon the performance of the broadcast crew, and others, in my TV Take. … In other WCC tournament action, San Diego and Pepperdine came close to posting huge upsets, but BYU, behind the play of Elijah Bryant, held off the Toreros while Saint Mary’s rallied late in the late game to overcome the Waves. … San Francisco got past Pacific in overtime.

EWU: Bogdan Bliznyuk did something yesterday that no one in NCAA history has ever done. He converted his 74th consecutive free throw this season. It’s the longest one-season streak ever. Jim Allen has that story as well as coverage of the Eagles’ 85-68 rout of Northern Arizona on Senior Night. … The Eagles will honor Dick Hannan at their Hall of Fame ceremonies. … Elsewhere on the final night of Big Sky regular season play, Montana finished off an undefeated home season with a win over Idaho State. … Portland State defeated visiting North Dakota. … Sacramento State upset Northern Colorado in California. … Weber State won at Montana State.

Idaho: The Vandals had to battle but they were able to secure a 78-76 home win over Southern Utah and second place in the Big Sky standings. Peter Harriman was at the game and has this story.

Chiefs: Spokane is playing its best hockey at the right time and won its fifth consecutive game, 4-2 over host Kelowna last night.

Preps: Covering state championships were always one of the greatest moments I had as a sports writer – and some of the most stressful. I couldn’t stop imagining a bunch of guys or gals gathered somewhere in 40 years, pulling out a yellowed clipping of my story and laughing because I added an extra “e” to someone’s name or something. I always understood I wasn’t just writing for the moment, but for their scrapbooks. It was an honor. … The Prep boys and CV girls will be re-reading Dave Nichols’ words over the years as he had the coverage of their games as well as Lewis and Clark’s third-place finish. … Over at the Arena, Greg Lee has the coverage of the 2B boys and 2B girls, won by Colfax. Jim Allen had the late duty with the 1B boys game while Kevin Dudley covered the last game of the night, Colton’s win in 1B girls. … Tyler Tjomsland has a photo gallery from Saturday’s action at the Arena. … We also have stories on the 1A boys title game as well as other 2A and 1A games from Yakima. … Genesis Prep was the only North Idaho school to take home a boys title yesterday. … Back to Tacoma, we have stories from the West Side to pass along concerning G-Prep and Central Valley.

Mariners: A Jean Segura home run helped the M’s win Saturday but the biggest win for Guillermo Heredia came in the offseason.

Seahawks: The supposed combine staring contest is still in the news.

•••       

• Over the years I’ve received a lot of emails from readers. Many were positive, most were not. But one I received late last night was easily the most perplexing. The writer thought I was spending a lot more time recently focusing on the announcing crews in my “TV Take” column. The “really?” that finished the email made it clear the writer didn’t think this was appropriate. Actually it is. Appropriate I mean. It is a media column. The acronym SMH was probably invented for times like these. Until later …

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