CENTRALIA — Once the postseason hits, favorites can fall and underdogs can rise on the basketball court. Elma and Hoquiam found out first hand Friday night.
The Eagles took advantage of a fourth-quarter dry spell from La Center to fly away with a 59-52 victory in the quarterfinals of the District IV Class 1A Boys Basketball Tournament at Ron Brown Court in Centralia.
Later in the night, Evergreen 1A champion Grizzlies had a tough time against the King’s Way Christian’s defense and finished with a 55-53 District IV 1A boys basketball loss.
On Tuesday, Evergreen No. 2 seed Elma (12-8) will face Trico No. 5 Toledo in the district semifinals at 8 p.m. at Chehalis. Hoquiam (15-6) will move into the consolation bracket and take on Trico No. 6 Castle Rock at 6:30 p.m., also at Chehalis.
King’s Way Christian will take on Trico No. 2 Woodland in the other championship semifinal at R.A. Long High School in Longview, while Trico No. 1 Kalama will try to rebound against La Center.
Eagles 57, Wildcats 52
With the momentum seemingly riding in La Center’s favor, Elma used rugged defense and clutch foul shooting to author the final turnaround in a back-and-forth contest.
Ray Stark hit consecutive 3-point shots (from opposite sides of the court) in the final 90 seconds of the third quarter to give the Eagles a 41-35 lead entering the final period.
With reserve Dalton Morgan scoring the first seven points, however, La Center answered with an 11-2 run to produce the 11th lead change of the contest and put the Wildcats up by three with 5:04 remaining.
Sticking with their man-to-man defense, the Eagles blanked the Wildcats from the field for the next 4 1/2 minutes. After initially struggling on the offensive end when La Center switched from a zone to a man-to-man defense, Elma began attacking the basket effectively to draw a slew of fouls.
Following an Austin Neary basket off a feed from Ryan Collin, Tyson Nauman and Stark each hit one of two free throws to put the Eagles up to stay at 47-46 with 4:09 left. Then senior post Chance Bremer, a formidable presence inside, rolled to the hoop for a left-handed floater that netted Elma’s only field goal of the closing stretch.
The Eagles sealed the deal by sinking 8-of-10 free throws in the final 1:54. Devon Gilman, scoreless until then, went 4-for-4 from the stripe to help clinch the victory.
“We made a couple of bad decisions (early in the fourth quarter). But resiliency, they showed it tonight,” Elma coach Marvin Prince said. “We’ve had it in spots all year, but I’ll take it right now. It was a resilient effort down the stretch…and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Collin, who knocked down four of his team’s seven 3-point baskets, led all scorers with 23 points. The 6-foot-1 Bremer had a double-double with 11 points and 14 rebounds.
Rashad Lorton came up with four steals. Gilman, a slender 5-foot-10 guard, blocked a couple of shots.
Will Rice, La Center’s leading scorer, missed the contest due to illness. Morgan led a trio of double-figure scorers for the Wildcats with 15 points.
Knights 55, Grizzlies 53
Senior post Joel Brydon drained a top-of-the-key 3-point basket to give Hoquiam a 39-36 lead with 6:36 remaining. This was Hoquiam’s last lead of the game.
King’s Way Christian got its big man — 6-foot-7 center Kienan Walter — back into the game and took advantage of the Hoquiam defense for a 15-4 run in four minutes of play.
When Kyle Gonzales knocked down two free throws with 2:26 left, the Knights held the largest lead of the game, 51-43. Brydon’s third 3-pointer of the game ended the run and ignited the Grizzlies’ rally.
Hoquiam converted 7-of-8 free throws, including three from Jerod Steen, to get to 53-52 with 30 seconds left.
The Grizzlies had to foul twice to get the ball back — with eight-man quarterback phenom Jay Becker and Gonzales hitting one free throw each — in the final seconds.
Devin Kelly’s drive to the basket, with Hoquiam down 54-52, hit the iron and Gonzales pulled in the loose ball rebound. After Gonzales’ free-throw conversion, Evan Newton had 6.2 seconds for a final shot, down 55-52. Becker prevented it, fouling Newton at half court to send him to the line with 3.2 seconds left.
Newton hit the first free throw and intentionally missed the second one. The loose ball stayed away from a Hoquiam hand as time expired, sending King’s Way Christian into celebration. The loss ended Hoquiam’s 13-game winning streak.
“(King’s Way Christian) is the best defensive team we’ve faced this year,” HHS head coach Curtis Eccles said. “I like the way we bounced back. We could have thrown in the towel, but we came back from a (nine-)point deficit and made it a game. It is the little things that hurt — missed free throws, missed opportunities. I’m proud of these guys and we just need to bounce back.”
Both teams engaged in a physical, defensive game plan in the first half. The Knights smothered the Grizzlies’ half-court offense and Hoquiam’s pressure made KWC work more on offense.
Four 3-point shots by the Knights in the second quarter pushed a low-scoring game forward. Becker scored 10 of his game-high 16 points in the second stanza to help KWC to a 24-18 halftime lead.
Hoquiam found its offensive rhythm in the third quarter on the high post — pick-and-rolls, mid-range jumpers and long-range bombs — to close the gap at 36-32 after three.
“I’m a firm believer that things happen for a reason,” Eccles said. “Last year, we knocked off La Center in the opening round and they came back to win three games (to go to regionals). The way the bracket falls, I like our chances. Being able to play Castle Rock and potentially either Elma or Toledo for a chance to go to state.”
Brydon, who hit 4-of-6 3-point attempts, led Hoquiam with 13 points and four assists. Newton added 11 points and four assists and Blake Kelly added 10 points and four steals.
La Center10141117—52 Elma1491816—57
La Center (52) — Wonderly 1, Davison 3, Aguirre 13, Braaten 7, Seter 13, Morgan 15, Griffee, Hiller, Parmetier, Nolan, Wise, Biershipe. FG — 15-50 (.300). FT — 15-23.
Elma (57) — Collin 23, Nauman 8, Stark 7, Bremer 11, Gilman 4, Neary 4, Lorton. FG — 19-50 (.380). FT — 12-19.
King’s Way Christian (55) — Jensen 3, Becker 16, Ickert 5, Graves 3, Gonzales 9, Coval 6, Aydin 5, Walter 8. FG — 16-42 (.381). FT — 17-22.
Hoquiam (53) — B. Kelly 10, Newton 11, D. Kelly, Steen 9, Adams 5, Varner 4, Anderson, Brydon 13. FG — 17-47 (.361). FT — 13-19.