TACOMA – There’s a new title hopeful for State 3A boys basketball, and it’s a team outside the Metro League.
In fact, it’s on the other side of the state.
Mt. Spokane, making its third state appearance and first since 2008, topped Rainier Beach 65-60 in Friday’s semifinal at the Tacoma Dome to advance to its first state title game. The Wildcats (24-1) face No. 11 O’Dea, a 49-41 winner over No. 1 Eastside Catholic, at 5 p.m. Saturday .
As winners of 21 straight, the turnaround for Mt. Spokane boys basketball continues to grow. Three years ago, the Wildcats went 2-18. Now they’ll play for their first state title.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” Wildcats sophomore Tyson Degenhart said, “but it’s pretty surreal. It’s a huge turnaround for a program that’s going in the right direction.”
Degenhart had 19 points and nine rebounds and played a key role, especially during a stretch run when the Wildcats pushed their lead to as high as 14 in the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats might be the new kids at this stage of state, but they’ve played like veterans the past two games: Thursday’s quarterfinal win over seventh-seed Capital and using their hot outside shooting, big interior plays and perimeter defense to build multiple double-digit leads on Rainier Beach, including 57-43 with 4:17 to play.
Rainier Beach (21-5) wasn’t done, however. Behind MarJon Beauchamp, the Vikings cut the deficit to 57-54 with 1:10 to play. Beauchamp scored 18 of his 22 points in the second half before fouling out on a technical foul with Vikings trailing by three.
Two more technical fouls were called on the Vikings’ bench, and Smith drilled 6 of 6 technical-foul free throws. He had a team-best 22 points on 6-of-12 shooting (4 of 6 from 3-point range). Jerry Twenge added 17 on 6-of-12 shooting for the Wildcats.
The past seven 3A title games have been all-Metro League showdowns, dating back to Rainier Beach’s 2012 championship win over Seattle Prep. No 3A team east of the mountains had reached the title game since Cheney in 1997, losing to O’Dea in the championship.
Now, Mt. Spokane hopes to turn the trend even more with a win Saturday.
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