In the revival of their holiday basketball tournament tradition, the Grays Harbor College men proved to be overly gracious hosts.
Wenatchee Valley stormed back from a 17-point deficit to edge the Chokers, 69-64, in the opening round of the Choker Classic Men’s Basketball Tournament on Saturday at Sam Benn Gym.
The Knights will face Northwest Indian College, a 90-81 winner over the semi-pro Portland Basketball Club, in the championship game at 3 p.m. today.
The Chokers (1-4) take on the Portland Basketball Club for third place at 1 p.m. This is the first holiday tourney GHC has hosted since the demise of the post-Thanksgiving Cold Turkey tourney several years ago.
A title-game berth seemed assured for the Chokers early in Saturday’s contest. Attacking the basket relentlessly and forcing numerous turnovers, GHC scored the game’s first eight points and owned a 29-12 lead on Jordan Bowman’s 3-point basket with 7:49 remaining in the first half.
The previously winless Knights, however, were able to eventually dictate a slower pace more to their liking. Using a motion offense to create inside opportunities and unexpectedly taking over the offensive glass after being badly outrebounded in the first half, Wenatchee Valley turned the game upside down when the Chokers went scoreless for nearly six minutes midway through the second half.
A 23-3 run transformed a 12-point deficit into a 52-44 Knight lead with 9:23 remaining. The Chokers, who later trailed by nine with 7:47 left, were playing catch-up from that point.
Grays Harbor reduced the margin to three on four occasions in the final 4:06. Riley Alvord’s spinning jumper from inside the key made it 65-62 with 1:57 on the clock.
The Chokers squandered a chance to get to within one when Jeff Harris missed a pair of foul shots at 1:36.
Wenatchee’s Matt Franz hit a baseline jumper with 40.6 remaining to put the game out of reach.
“We’re most effective when we run and we really slowed down, stopped pushing the ball (in the second half),” a dejected GHC coach Jordan Altman said. “They slowed us down on offense and that affected our defense. When we slow down, we’re in trouble.”
Wenatchee Valley’s Jordan Perry, a 6-foot-5 swingman from the Sacramento area, led all scorers with 17 points. Teammate Jason Dresker added 13 points.
Starting guard Alvord and reserve guard Jeff Harris, two of the few Chokers to take the ball to the hoop in the second half, finished with 14 points apiece. Alvord also contributed three steals and two blocked shots.
Barry Smith had eight points and eight rebounds for Grays Harbor.
Northwest Indian College trailed by eight early in the second half but used its superior depth to erupt for 54 points in the final 20 minutes.
Doug Williams scored 26 points and Josh Nelson tallied 22 to lead NWIC. P.J. Dixon, a good long-range shooter, also had 26 points for the semi-pro Portland Basketball Club — a late replacement for the Portland Bible College junior varsity.
Wenatchee Valley (69) — Skurdahl 9, Wahl 2, Perry 17, Ayers 6, Dresker 13, Manning 8, Van Lierop 4, Franz 10. FG — 27-67 (.403). FT — 12-22.
Grays Harbor (64) — Bowman 5, Alvord 14, Davis 2, Smith 8, Wyatt 6, Hunt, Eubanks, Richters 6, Harrod 2, Harris 14, Nelson 2, Erholm 5. FG — 26-68 (.382). FT — 8-16.
Northwest Indian College (90) — Jefferson 6, Schjang 17, Peterson 6, Belone 2, Nelson 22, Perro 6, Williams 26, Nuvamsa 5.
Portland Basketball (81) — Borovsky, R. Belt 2, Stone 2, Snodderly 7, H. Belt 15, Wynn 12, Dixon 26, Robinson 17.