CHEHALIS - Mount Baker rallied from the brink of disaster not once, not twice, but three times against one of the top Class 1A state championship contenders and its two tall all-state candidates.
It was typical Mountaineers' moxie this postseason, but it wasn't enough to keep their boys' basketball season alive.
The Mountaineers (11-16) prevented a demoralizing disaster, or anything even close to that, but they did suffer a 59-47 loss to Toledo (23-1) in the regional round of the state tournament on Saturday, Feb. 23, at W.F. West High School.
"This team is right up there at the top of the pile," said Mount Baker coach Rob Gray, indicating how much pride he felt in his team's 5-2 postseason showing in the wake of a 6-14 regular season in his 16th year guiding the Mounties. "It's one of my favorite teams."
Even though Toledo's quick and nimble All-Cowlitz County senior college prospects, 6-foot-7 Brennan Rakoz and 6-5 Austin Trafelet, combined for 37 points and 18 rebounds, a flurry of shorter Baker defenders gave them all they could handle for 3 1/2 quarters.
Ultimately, the 22 fouls whistled on the Mounties - compared to 10 called on the Indians, whose huge crowd had to make only a short journey to the game - made all the difference. Toledo made 14 of 24 free throws and Baker went to the line only eight times, making five.
Baker's third and final rally followed a steal and layup with 6:03 remaining by Toledo's Brent Wood for a 47-37 lead.
At that point, aggressive junior reserve defender Conner Brandland got up off the floor to make a free throw, Zan Roman hit a 3-pointer and Ty Munsell made a daring steal and hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key, pulling Baker to 47-44 with 5:17 to play.
Roman said play was "typical Ty" this postseason.
"Ty really stepped up for us as a leader," said Roman. "He created an offense for us (tonight)."
Munsell, fully aware the best two players on the court were Toledo's huge stars, said he was in the right place at the right time to throw a scare into the Indians.
"That's been my hot spot when I've felt it," said Munsell, who turned in team highs with 14 points on 6 for 12 shooting and nine rebounds. "The top of the key always has been good for me. I just got that 3-point shot off before anyone had the chance to set up to guard me."
Rakoz and Trafelet, however, were not to be denied, combining for 10 of Toledo's final 12 points as the Indians finished with a 12-3 run, capping a frantic game with 47 turnovers, including 26 by Baker.
Trafelet's driving layup gave the Indians a 41-29 advantage late in the third quarter, but Baker made its second comeback as twins Dalton and Ty Munsell scored on drives and Roman hit two outside shots, moving the Mounties to 43-37.
"Zan meant everything to us (when he returned from an injury to play 16 games after missing the first 11)," said Ty Munsell, who hit a half-court shot at the first half buzzer for his first basket of the game, much to Roman's excited cheers.
Baker's first comeback featured a remarkable display of shooting potential by 5-9 sophomore guard Colton Ranson, who came up from the junior varsity to score 52 points in Baker's post-season, including 11 against Toledo in an 18-minute stint off the bench.
Baker fell behind 19-6 at the end of the first quarter, matching the Mounties' largest deficit. But Brandland scored on an offensive rebound to open the second period and Branson made 4 consecutive shots, including three 3-pointers, to contribute 11 points before Ty Munsell's memorable half-court basket.
"Colton just plays," said Gray, looking forward to working with him for two more years. "He doesn't hear the fans. He really does just have ice-water in his veins. He'll be a tremendous asset for us."
Baker also received a hard-charging effort from senior Reuben Murashov, who finished with eight rebounds and six points.
Gray couldn't help but be proud of his team's improvement.
"If you look at our record, we went 10-4 against Class 1A teams, with 10-2 in our last 12 games against 1A," he said. "Our only two losses in that period were to (state quarterfinalists) King's and Toledo in what were essentially home games for both of them."
Roman may have put it best, while expressing gratitude that a football injury did not cost him his basketball season.
"This was an unrepeatable experience," he said. "Is that a word?"
Anyone who might have heard him knew what he meant. He just wished he could repeat Baker's postseason success with a little more luck.
TOLEDO 59, MOUNT BAKER 47
Mount Baker 6 19 10 12 - 47
Toledo 19 16 8 16 - 59
Mount Baker: Ty Munsell 14, Zan Roman 7, Reuben Murashov 6, Dalton Munsell 2, Andrew Zender 3, Colton Ranson 11, Conner Brandland 3, John Douglas 1, Harrison Whitmyre, Isaac Gilmore, Seth Bass, Josh Barbo. Team totals: 18-44 5-8 47.
Toledo: Austin Trafelet 20, Brennan Rakoz 17, Grant McEwan 8, Joe Durham 4, Brent Wood 5, Blake Wood 5, Forrest Wallace, Skyler Muyskens, Riley Bowen, Lakota Rakoz, Mikhail Hopf. Team totals 21-46 14-24 59.
3-ptg: Mount Baker 6 (Ranson 3); Toledo 3. Rebounds: Mount Baker 27 (Ty Munsell 9); Toledo 32 (Brennan Rakoz 10). Assists: Mount Baker 6 (Murashov 2); Toledo 10 (Trafelet 4). Fouls: Mount Baker 22 (Whitmyre fouled out); Toledo 10. Turnovers: Mount Baker 26, Toledo 21.