TACOMA – Sometimes things in life actually do live up to the hype.
It said “semifinal” on the bracket, but it had all of the physical play and emotion of a state title game.
And why not, since it was a rematch of last year’s final.
With the same result.
Liam Lloyd scored 21 points – 16 in the first half on four 3-pointers – and second-seeded Gonzaga Prep outslugged and outlasted Federal Way 61-53 a State 4A semifinal at the Tacoma Dome on Friday.
“It felt a lot like a state title game,” Lloyd said. “There was a lot of emotion, a lot of energy.”
The defending champion Bullpups (24-2) face Mt. Si – which beat Curtis 53-46 in the other semifinal – on Saturday at 9 p.m. in the championship game. Federal Way (25-3) faces Curtis in the third-place game at 11:15 a.m.
G-Prep beat Federal Way 54-52 in the title game last year, capping an undefeated season. When the 4A brackets were announced, the possibility of a rematch loomed – and the game didn’t disappoint.
At one point in the second half, the two stars for both teams were playing with four fouls apiece. When Federal Way’s Jaden McDaniels and Tari Eason fouled out within moments of each other in the fourth quarter, the momentum changed.
“When Liam and Anton (Watson) had four (fouls), that was a tough decision to get them back in in the third quarter,” G-Prep coach Matty McIntyre said. “But it was ‘Go time.’ We just couldn’t wait.”
“We expected all that,” Watson said. “It was chippy the whole game. We just had to fight through it the whole time.”
The Gonzaga-bound Watson finished with 10 points, 12 rebounds and four assists.
McDaniels – who has narrowed his college choices to San Diego State (where his older brother Jalen plays), Kentucky, Texas, UCLA and Washington – scored 17 points. Eason finished with 19.
G-Prep led by six at the half, but Jalen Womack hit a 3-pointer from the corner, getting the Eagles to within three. Eason followed a miss and it was 39-38 with 4:09 left in the quarter.
The Eagles took their first lead of the game on a McDaniel dunk.
On the next possession, Watson picked up his fourth foul on a reach and went to the bench. Eason went back inside for a layup and McDaniel converted a three-point play.
G-Prep was held to six points in the third quarter and the Eagles led 47-43.
McDaniels was called for his fourth foul with 5 minutes left, guarding Watson up top.
Lloyd hit from 3 and Watson drew Eason’s fifth foul with a layup. He converted the three-point play, tying it at 51.
McDaniels earned his fifth foul on an offensive rebound with just more than 3 minutes left.
“We definitely hang our hat on defense,” Watson said. “Jaden and Tari got in foul trouble, so that helped us out a lot.”
The complexion of the game completely changed.
Lloyd made 1 of 2 at the line, then Watson hit a pair, making it a three-point game with just over 2 minutes left. Carter Sonneborn’s fast-break layup made it a five-point game.
Lloyd came up with a blocked shot on the perimeter and Sheadon Byrd’s transition layup made it 58-51 with 51.3 seconds to go.
Federal Way scored just six points in the fourth quarter.
“The kids showed a lot of resolve, a lot of mental toughness,” McIntyre said. “Things got away from us, but we stuck true to ourselves, and I’m most proud of that.”
The first time McDaniel had the ball, he was called for a charge with Sonneborn defending.
McDaniel picked up his second foul on offense a few minutes later and went to the bench midway through the quarter. The Bullpups took advantage.
Watson went inside for a two-handed jam, then Lloyd got loose from the outside.
His fourth 3-pointer of the quarter gave G-Prep a 25-10 lead after one quarter.
“That’s what I do,” Lloyd said. “I was just feeling it and just letting it fly.”
The Eagles used a 7-2 run to get back within 10, but Byrd’s full-length layup made it 33-19 with 2:46 to go in the half.
Lloyd hit a jumper and was fouled, but was called for a technical after the play. He missed the free throw, then Bradley Graham made 1 of 2 from the line.
Lloyd picked up his fourth foul with 3.8 seconds left in the half and G-Prep headed to halftime up 37-31. Lloyd had 16 in the half; Eason answered with 15.
Lloyd said he didn’t expect to play that physically. “I never expected it to get to that point, but we played through it and got it done,” he said.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.