What Sehome accomplished during the final two days of the Class 2A State Tournament comes as no surprise.
Certainly, no player or coach anticipated an opening-round loss, but the reaction to the defeat proved how much resolve exists in the battle-hardened Mariners.
“If you happen to drop one to a team that’s your equal or better, you got to be able to bounce back and show what type of guts it takes to be a team that can take a loss and come back and be the best it can,” Sehome coach AJ LaBree said. “All year long we’ve had buzzer-beaters and just heartbreaking losses and just amazing victories.”
After the Mariners’ gut-wrenching defeat to River Ridge, Sehome bounced back with a big win over Mark Morris and then sent its nine seniors out in style by earning a fourth-place trophy with a convincing 59-41 win over Olympic early Saturday morning, March 7, at the Yakima SunDome.
The trophy matched the fourth best finish in school history. Sehome won a state title in 1996 and placed third in 1991 and 1998.
“We ultimately came here for the gold ball, but once we lost our first game it was, how high can you finish?” Sehome senior guard Leif Anderson said. “And fourth place is really good. I don’t know how many teams are in 2A, but to say you’re the fourth best team is pretty awesome.”
But the Mariners (20-9) needed to overcome a slow start to get the win.
Sehome put itself in an early 11-3 hole with some suspect defense and trailed 14-10 at the end of the first, but powered by Anderson’s and Leighton Kingma’s hot shooting, as well as collectively ramping up their defensive effort, the Mariners started rolling.
Kingma finished with a game-high 21 points, and Anderson scored 15. Both players combined to account for 17 of the Mariners’ 19 second-quarter points. Anderson buried two 3s in the quarter, and Kingma added seven points to ignite Sehome’s offense.
Defensively, Sehome elected to play its 2-3 zone in an effort to neutralize Olympic’s two 6-foot-6 forwards, Jumier Johnson and Damarius Johnson. The defense also forced the Trojans to shoot from the perimeter, which LaBree said wasn’t the team’s strength.
The Mariners’ defense held Olympic without a field goal from the 3:35 mark in the second to the 2:30 mark in the third. Sehome’s offensive took advantage by venturing on a 19-2 scoring run, pushing the Mariners’ lead from 20-19 to 39-21 with 3:23 left in the third quarter.
Tanner Clark, who played all but the final 56 seconds of Sehome’s tournament, Kingma, Anderson and Langston Engle all scored during the game-deciding run.
“We started playing a little better defense in the second quarter and started making life a little tough on them,” LaBree said. “We saw a few shots go through, knocked down some 3s. Leighton and Leif started doing their thing. A little weight comes off, and you realize, ‘OK, our game plan is fine. I think we can outscore this team as long as we play solid defense.’”
Olympic battled back to cut Sehome’s lead to 41-32 with 7:03 to play in the fourth quarter, but five straight points from Kingma followed by two Clark free throws and another Kingma bucket pushed the Mariners’ advantage to 51-34 with 5:20 to play, essentially sealing the win.
Anderson, Clark, Engle, Steven Thibou, Teddy Pechthalt, Elijah Andrushenko, Sam Carroll, Duncan James and Josh Slesk ended their careers Saturday, but LaBree expressed how much the group and team meant to him.
“The character of this group is what’s amazing,” LaBree said. “Not only are they great basketball players, but they are good people. And that’s down the line, not only the seniors, but the whole team. They’ve really represented Sehome just amazingly throughout their four years, and I couldn’t be more proud and honored just to coach them.”
Sehome 59, Olympic 41
Sehome: Steven Thibou 1, Teddy Pechthalt 0, Langston Engle 2, Logan Deboo 2, Elijah Andrushenko 6, Sam Carroll 4, Leif Anderson 15, Duncan James 0, Josh Slesk 0, Marcus Montag 0, Tanner Clark 8, Leighton Kingma 21. Totals: 21-54 9-14 59.
Olympic: Keshun McGee 2, Erik Turnquist 2, Jaiden Mosley 0, Marcus Harris 2, Chris Campana 0, Makaleb McInnis 21, Tyler Yost 2, Jumier Johnson 11, Damarius Johnson 1. Totals: 10-45 19-27 41.
3-point field goals — Sehome: 8 (Anderson/Kingma 3); Olympic: 2 (McInnis 2). Rebounds — Sehome: 37 (Deboo 5); Olympic: 37 (J. Johnson 13). Assists — Sehome: 8 (Anderson/Clark/James 2); Olympic: 2 (J. Johnson/McInnis 1). Fouls — Sehome: 16; Olympic: 14. Turnovers — Sehome: 7; Olympic: 11.