ELLENSBURG — The one common denominator between North Beach’s boys and Willapa Valley’s girls in their games against Northwest Christian-Colbert was opportunity — both teams believed they had their chances on Saturday.
In a highly anticipated matchup, the Hyaks went toe-to-toe with the Crusaders for three quarters before a surge put the game out of reach in a 58-49 NWC-Colbert win in this Class 2B boys regional-to-state contest at Ellensburg High School.
Following the Hyaks, the Vikings made the Crusaders sweat in the first 2 1/2 quarters as top-ranked NWC-Colbert found its surge in the second half for a 64-40 Class 2B girls regional-to-state game.
Crusaders 58, Hyaks 49
The sixth-ranked Crusaders led through most of the second half in this battle with the Hyaks and never felt comfortable until the final minutes.
“This is a group of kids who never gave up all year,” North Beach head coach Larry Moore said. “They worked their tails off. I’m really proud of them. Coach (Bob) Sutter would have been proud of the guys’ effort, teamwork. This was a team we could have beat. We didn’t. All you can ask for is the opportunity. It was just a couple of little things that was the difference. I’m really proud of the kids’ efforts all year. I knew these kids would come out here and battle. We did.”
North Beach’s defense made life difficult for NWC-Colbert in the first half, employing several zone defenses to slow it down. Without perimeter marksman David Olds hitting his two 3-point shots at pivotal times, the Crusaders could have seen their first-quarter deficit (by as many as six, 10-4, with 1:56 left) expanded into double digits.
All of the Hyaks’ scoring threats came ready for combat. Senior Corey Thornton found room to slash to the basket and hit long-range perimeter shots, while junior Gabe Hernandez came off the bench early to control the paint.
Add in perimeter drives and pressure from sophomore Mike Beck, who seemed to have been left alone in the corners until he found his range, and interior work by seniors Justin Chong and Carson Ketter and you had North Beach’s offense matching the Crusaders.
NWC-Colbert countered with its strength — its height — in the paint with posts Jeremiah Sander and Chris Hartis. Hartis’ drive into the heart of the zone defense broke North Beach’s defense early in the second quarter and Sander’s rebounding prowess created second- and third-chances on possessions.
The Crusaders stayed inside to grab a 26-23 halftime lead and the Hyaks readjusted.
“We saw right away that we had a decent chance to slow them with the zone, but (Olds) is a shooter and we knew that,” Moore said. “For whatever reason, we didn’t do a good job on him. Once (Sander) established down low, we couldn’t move him. It was good and then we had to go to a man defense when we got down to stem the tide.”
Ketter and Pedro Gonzales gave North Beach its final lead of the game in the early minutes of the second half — a pair of inside baskets — at 27-26, with 5:52 left. NWC-Colbert’s defense was already keying on Hernandez and Thornton and it sparked a 13-5 quarter-ending surge for a 39-32 lead after three.
Hartis, Sander and Olds scored all 13 points in the frame, with just one 3-pointer in the mix and plenty of interior work. The Crusaders were also aided by eight North Beach turnovers, many of them hurried throws down court over players’ heads.
“I don’t know; we did have some unforced errors,” Moore said. “I think we may have been playing too fast, trying to catch up too quickly, when we were down. We talked about taking it one play at a time, staying patient, make better decisions. I don’t know if the kids felt it, but it happens. You have to NWC credit for that.”
The fourth quarter was elementary for the Crusaders — a quarter-opening 3-pointer by Ryan Ricks and traded baskets with the Hyaks — to keep the lead hovering near double digits. North Beach got to within five with 26 seconds left, 54-49, but couldn’t get closer.
Moore cited his seniors — Justin Chong, Levi Edlin, Pedro Gonzales, Carson Ketter, Josh Takagi and Corey Thornton — for their contributions to the North Beach program, plus the fans who made the trip to Ellensburg and the Taholah fans who stuck around to cheer of the Hyaks after their girls game.
Crusaders 64, Vikings 40
Five minutes into the game, NWC-Colbert held a 10-2 lead and momentum against Willapa Valley. Junior guard Karli Friese erased that momentum by the end of the first quarter.
Friese, who became the Vikings’ main source of offense when foul trouble and the Crusaders’ defense shut off the rest of the team, scored a game-high 26 points and 13 rebounds on Saturday. Even then, NWC-Colbert needed a perimeter barrage in the second half to provide distance away from Valley.
“That was the difference in the game; (those 3-pointers) were timely and I’m not too sure how much more we could have done defensively to stop those,” Willapa Valley head coach Matt Bannish said. “Some of those (treys) were deep. The girls were frustrated. We knew if those girls hit those shots, we’d be in trouble. They didn’t hit them in the first half, but they did in the second half.”
Down 10-2, the Vikings completely erased the deficit with a 16-8 run over the first and second quarters to tie, 18-18, with 2:41 left in the first half. Friese, whose drives to the basket either produced layups or shots at the free-throw line, scored 12 of the 16 points in the run.
When Friese drained a jumper with 2:41 left for the tie, NWC-Colbert emphatically called timeout. Valley never took the lead, but the game was tight and spirited for a 25-22 halftime score. Brooke Harden scored the Vikings’ final four points of the half and could have trimmed the deficit to one, but missed two free throws with .5 left.
“(Karli) is Karli; how she’s done this year, we’ve gone,” Bannish said. “Lauren (Friese) was in foul trouble the whole game. This is tough.”
The Crusaders focused their defense on all of the Vikings, not just on Friese, in the second half. Friese scored Valley’s first four points of the third before NWC-Colbert surged away — an 18-7 run powered by sharp perimeter shooting and advantageous interior work. Friese and Harden were the only ones able to crack the Crusaders’ defense in the second half.
Before Valley knew it, it trailed 48-33 after three quarters and NWC-Colbert never relented in the fourth quarter.
“It is a sad way to end the season, but one of our goals this season was the get into regionals,” Bannish added. “We had a formidable task at hand today. We felt the key was scoring and rebounding. We didn’t score many in the second half. The kids played hard.”
Bannish cited his seniors — Lauren Friese, Emily Fluke, Brooke Harden, Miriam Naranjo, Meagan Sanaski, Mackenzie Trotter and Sydney Wilkeson — for their work throughout the season and in their Valley basketball careers.
Willapa Valley 9 13 11 8 — 40
NWC-Colbert 13 12 23 16 — 64
Willapa Valley (40) — L. Friese 4, Smaciarz, Wilkeson, K. Friese 26, Cook 2, Huber, Fluke, Harden 8, Navanjo, Trotter, Layman. FG — na. FT — na.
Northwest Christian-Colbert (64) — Guske 4, Taylor 3, Gray 10, Gaffney, Farmer 13, Knight 8, Bozlee 15, Gray 7, Shellerud 2, Tibbets 2. FG — na. FT — na.
North Beach 10 13 9 17 — 49
NWC-Colbert 8 18 13 19 — 58
North Beach (49) — Beck 4, Thornton 12, Gonzales 5, Chong 4, Takagi, Ketter 4, Hernandez 20, Perez. FG — 20-51 (.392). FT — 6-11.
Northwest Christian-Colbert (58) — Morris 9, Bax, Ricks 6, N. Sander, Olds 12, J. Sander 10, Hartis 21. FG — 21-53 (.396). FT — 12-21.