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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Boys basketball: Ryan Lafferty, Nalu Vargas lift Mt. Spokane in fourth; Wildcats down Titans in district semi

Mt. Spokane lost one game in league all season – a lopsided 79-54 decision to University on Jan. 30. So, when the Titans beat Kennewick 51-48 in a district first-round game Saturday, the Wildcats were licking their chops at a chance for the rematch.

Be careful what you wish for.

For three quarters, U-Hi stuck with the plan that worked for them in January, feeding 6-foot-8 post Shane Skidmore and playing in-your-face defense. But Mt. Spokane’s Ryan Lafferty took over in the second half and the host Wildcats got an offensive boost from some unexpected sources.

Lafferty finished with 27 points, Nalu Vargas added 10 – all in the fourth quarter – and the No. 3-ranked Wildcats escaped with a 66-55 win over the Titans in a District 8 3A semifinal on Tuesday.

Mt. Spokane clinched a trip to state and will face North Central in the district title game Saturday. U-Hi faces Ridgeline in an elimination game Thursday.

Skidmore led U-Hi with 18 points and Jack Del Mese had 14.

“There was nothing that we didn’t expect from that,” Mt. Spokane coach David Wagenblast said. “U-Hi is a really good team and they are playing really well together. They’re a bunch of seniors just like we are. That was a really high-level basketball game.”

Lafferty was the offensive catalyst in the third quarter with eight points . He added six more in the fourth quarter.

“My teammates have a lot of trust in me, so that’s where it all starts,” Lafferty said. “We definitely picked up the pressure, which helped us a lot and turned defense into offense. So, we got some easy buckets, which helped us get back in the game.”

“(Lafferty) was spectacular today,” Wagenblast said. “He was not gonna let us do anything other than move on. That’s what it comes down to, is you’ve got to have your seniors and your leaders to step up. And he more than did that.”

“We just wanted to compete. We’ve been kind of on-again, off-again,” University coach Garrick Phillips said. “We’ve been really good – obviously we beat these guys once, we beat Gonzaga Prep. And then we’ve had some games that we’ve let get away. So, we just wanted to compete, and I felt like my kids did that.”

Down by two at the start of the fourth quarter, Lafferty made a pair of free throws to tie it, then a steal turned into a Vargas layup for just the Wildcats’ second lead of the game.

Sam Davidson added a 3 for a 52-47 lead and Vargas hit back-to-back 3-pointers to make it an 11-point game with 4:52 minutes to go. It was a 13-0 run to start the quarter.

“I got in foul trouble early,” Vargas said. “Happy I could come back in hit a couple shots.”

After a couple of U-Hi baskets, Vargas hit a runner with time expiring on the shot clock to make it 62-53 with a minute left. Next time down, Lafferty added a 3 to punctuate the comeback.

“It just took us awhile to get going,” Wagenblast said. “But once we did, we really, really played well together.”

U-Hi got out to an 8-3 lead, but McKay Smith and Lafferty hit 3-pointers to pull the Wildcats within two. Lafferty drove for a late scooping layup, and it was tied at 13 after one quarter.

U-Hi’s AJ Wolfe hit a long 3-pointer, Skidmore scored underneath and Gabe Heimbigner drove for a bucket to put the Titans up 24-18 with a little more than 2 minutes left in the quarter. Justis Johnson drained a 3 from the corner and U-Hi led 30-23 at halftime.

Mt. Spokane chipped away in the third quarter. Lafferty hit two 3s midway through the quarter, and Davidson’s 3-pointer from the wing just before the horn cut U-Hi’s lead to 47-45.

“Sam does a lot of the work that goes unseen,” Lafferty said. “Today he happened to be seen. He hit some big-time 3s. He made some big-time stops – I think that’s the type of stuff that goes unseen and his energy was just great for us all day as it is always.”

District 8 4A

Gonzaga Prep 69, Richland 64: Henry Sandberg scored 20 points to lead five in double figures and the visiting Bullpups (19-5) beat the Bombers (19-4) in the district title game and punch a ticket to state.

Richland’s Jack Forbes tied it at 61 with 1:40 to play. Sandberg hit a 3-pointer on the next possession and Dylynn Groves made it a five-point game with a pair of free throws with 33 seconds left.

Nate Christy had 15 points for G-Prep. Groves finished with 13, Ryan Jackson had 11 and Brogan Howell added 11. Josh Woodard led Richland with 21 points and Forbes added 16.

Lewis and Clark 65, Central Valley 51: Paolo Murray scored 17 points, Asher Jenson added 12 and the Tigers (15-8) eliminated the visiting fourth-seeded Bears (2-20). Orland Axton scored 17 points for Central Valley. Lewis and Clark plays at Kamiakin in a loser-out Thursday.

District 8 3A

North Central 65, Walla Walla 52: Eli Williams scored 19 points, JuJu Ervin had 13 and Jacori Ervin added 10 and the Wolfpack (18-5) beat the host Blue Devils (13-10) in a semifinal. NC locked down a trip to state with the win.

Ridgeline 64, Southridge 62: Easton Amend scored off an inbounds play with 1.8 seconds left to lift the visiting Falcons (14-8) over the Suns (11-13) for the first playoff win in school history.

Ridgeline plays at U-Hi in an elimination game Thursday. Caden Andreas led the Falcons with 25 points, Brayden Allen added 17 and Amend finished with 10.

Kennewick 75, Ferris 49: The Lions (10-12) eliminated the visiting Saxons (10-14). Details were unavailable.

District 8 2A

West Valley 75, East Valley 35: Parker Munns scored 19 points and the third-seeded Eagles (18-3) eliminated the visiting sixth-seeded Knights (3-18) in a first-round game. Ben Fried chipped in 12 points for WV while Will Busse and Brice Abbey added 11 apiece. West Valley visits Rogers for a semifinal Tuesday.

Clarkston 76, Shadle Park 39: Xander Van Tine scored 20 points, Carter Steinwand added 16 and the fourth-seeded Bantams (11-11) eliminated the visiting fifth-seeded Highlanders (7-14). Enoch Gathecha led Shadle with 18 points. Clarkston visits top-seeded Pullman for a semifinal Thursday.