As he walked back to bench, preparing for yet another down-to-the-wire affair in the third-place game of the Class 2A Northwest District Tournament on Friday, Feb. 20, Sehome boys’ basketball coach A.J. LaBree muttered, “I have had about enough of this league.”
So has his heart — and that’s just in the last five days.
The week opened with a buzzer-beating loss to Northwest Conference foe Anacortes in the district semifinals and continued Wednesday, Feb. 18, with a three-point victory over Sedro-Woolley in a winner-to-state game.
Why should the third-place game against crosstown rival Squalicum be any different?
In a game that featured eight lead changes and three ties in just the second half, the Storm managed to outlast Sehome 61-59 when Leighton Kingma’s put-back bucket off a Tanner Clark miss was ruled to have come after the buzzer.
“It will be wonderful to play someone who’s not from this Northwest Conference next week,” Squalicum coach Dave Dickson said. “We can look at the empirical evidence of districts, and you can see there are four teams that are left from our league and another team that was very close and was comparable. ... If you can get out of this league, you’re battle hardened, and hopefully there’s some reward for that.”
With the win, Squalicum (17-7) receives the district’s No. 3 seed to the regional round of the Class 2A State Tournament, while Sehome (17-8) will move on as the No. 4 seed.
Pairings will not be released by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association until late Saturday, Feb. 21, and times and sites for games will be released on Sunday, Feb. 22, but it’s likely both teams will have to travel for the regionals.
“We’re probably going to get a little tougher game now, being the fourth seed, but like I said, playing the schedule we have, we’re ready for anybody,” LaBree said. “We just might have to travel a little further.”
If nothing else, the past five days have shown both teams that they’re ready for the caliber of play they’re likely to see next week — and the week after if they’re able to advance to Yakima.
Sehome learned it’s plenty capable of staying in any game, even if an opponent takes away leading scorer Leif Anderson, whom Squalicum held to three points on Friday.
“We had Josiah Westbrook on him early and brought Josh Vail in off the bench to give Josiah a little breather, and I thought we just followed the game plan,” Dickson said. “They were both on a mission defensively.”
But even with Anderson out of the mix, the Mariners were able to go big shot for big shot with the Storm, thanks in large part to a big game from Kingma, who matched Squalicum’s Damek Mitchel with a game-high 20 points.
It was Kingma’s shooting that ignited a Sehome second-quarter rally from 13 points down to back within one by halftime, when he hit three of his game-high four 3-pointers.
From there, neither team led by more than five in the second half, and the score was tied at 56, before Westbrook, who scored 11, hit a pull-up jumper.
Mitchell made it 60-57 with a lay-up, but Kingma answered to trim the lead back to one with 1:03 to play. After getting a stop at the other end, Kingma got an open look at a 3 but couldn’t convert. Chris Paz grabbed the rebound and was fouled with six seconds left, and he hit the first and missed the second.
“We were going to call a timeout there, but Tanner made the right choice (after the missed free throw),” LaBree said. “I think going coast to coast was the right choice. We got the tip in, but it was a couple of milliseconds late.”
Squalicum 61, Sehome 59
Sehome: Langston Engle 6, Logan Deboo 7, Elijah Andrushenko 9, Leif Anderson 3, Duncan James 1, Marcus Montag 7, Tanner Clark 6, Leighton Kingma 20. Totals: 22-51 9-11 59.
Squalicum: Harper Moore 5, Noah Westerhoff 0, Josh Vail 5, Darious Powell 15, Damek Mitchell 20, Josiah Westbrook 11, Ben Tripp 2, Chris Paz 3. Totals: 20-47 16-22 61.
3-point field goals — Sehome: 6 (Kingma 4); Squalicum: 5 (Powell 3). Rebounds — Sehome: 31 (Deboo 9); Squalicum: 30 (Mitchell 9). Assists — Sehome: 6 (Clark 3); Squalicum: 8 (Moore 3). Fouls — Sehome: 15 (Andrushenko fouled out); Squalicum: 13. Turnovers — Sehome: 13; Squalicum: 12.