SPOKANE — The Taholah High School boys basketball team figured out how to do something that Pateros, Moses Lake Christian and Valley Christian (Spokane) couldn’t do in the last two weeks. Keep Soap Lake from mounting a comeback.
In the process, the Chitwhins earned their first-ever state boys basketball trophy.
The hot-shooting Chitwhins built a seven-point, halftime lead, then came out firing in the second half of a 72-55 win over Soap Lake in the consolation round of the state Class 1B Boys Basketball Tournament on Friday at the Spokane Arena.
With the win, Taholah (19-3) will face Christian Faith of Federal Way in a game at 9:30 a.m. this morning to determine fourth and sixth places.
Although the Chitwhin boys participated in 16-team state tournaments in 2007 and 2009, this will be the first time they’ll be returning with a state trophy.
Taholah has seen limited action this season due to off-court issues with the since-dissolved Coastal 1B League and needed just two games in the district and regional rounds to get to state. Some of that rust appeared to show through in the Chitwhins’ opening-round loss to Neah Bay, but didn’t seem to be a problem against Soap Lake.
The Chitwhins had a great afternoon shooting, hitting 52.8 percent of its field-goal attempts — including 8-of-19 on 3-point attempts.
“We did come here worried that we weren’t in game shape. You can run all day, but that’s not being in game shape, knowing how to run your plays,” Taholah coach Greg Stewart said. “But we boxed out better in this game and rebounded more than we did against Neah Bay, and our defense was much better.
“Soap Lake played us tough. They’ve got a couple of big guys who looked good,” he added. “Christian Faith is the same way, so playing team defense is going to be very important to us.”
Soap Lake, meanwhile, had come through a brutal two-week stretch that saw the Eagles rally to beat Pateros and MLCA and capture their district title – the Eagles overcame a 14-point fourth quarter deficit against Pateros with 48 points in 12 minutes to win in overtime.
The two teams played even basketball in the opening period, which started with Taholah taking a 9-4 lead, only to have Soap Lake fight back to a 14-all tie at the end of the first quarter.
The Chitwhins started pulling away in the second quarter behind 10 points from Keanu Curleybear and two late buckets from Joseph Winn that put Taholah up by seven at the half, 31-24.
But the real push for Taholah came at the start of the third period when K. Curleybear hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Jimmy Smith-Kramer drove to the bucket three times for points. The Chitwhins outscored the Eagles 23-11 in the period, taking a 54-35 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The Eagles did try to mount one final comeback when they hit back-to-back treys midway through the fourth quarter. But they never came closer than 12 (56-44) and the Chitwhins outscored Soap Lake, 14-11, in the final four minutes to seal the victory.
Curleybear finished with a game-high 19 points, while Cleve Jackson scored 15 and Smith-Kramer finished with 10 points.
SL 14 10 11 20 — 55 Tah 14 17 23 18 — 72
Soap Lake (55) — Kalachik 2, Winters 17, Foster 2, Korneychuk 16, Cutshall 9, Kapalo 9, Herrera, Delgado, Bessett, Ding. FG — 22-64. (.344). FT — 4-14.
Taholah (72) — Jackson 15, Purdy 6, Stewart 2, Smith-Kramer 10, J.Curleybear 4, Tadios-Tahkeal 9, K.Curleybear 19, Tanner 1, Winn 6. FG — 28-53 (.528). FT — 8-11.
Three-pointers: Soap Lake 7-27, (Cutshall 3, Winters 3, Kapalo). Taholah 8-19 (K.Curleybear 5, Jackson 2, Tadios-Tahkeal).
Rebounds: Soap Lake 32 (Korneychuk 14), Taholah 38 (Winn 8).
Assists: Soap Lake 7 (Kapalo 3), Taholah 10 (J.Curleybear 3).