Sometimes, in a pressure packed win-or-go-home situation, all a team can ask for is a chance in the end to win a game.
Squalicum had that opportunity against River Ridge during a Class 2A State Tournament regional game featuring two of the top four ranked teams in the state.
The Storm simply missed a few shots River Ridge didn’t.
“We can go into all the complexities in the game of basketball,” Squalicum coach Dave Dickson said, “but sometimes it just boils down to making a shot, and they were able to do that. ... We had a couple chances to answer, and so many times we did, but unfortunately it didn’t happen.”
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Storm standout senior guard Josiah Westbrook perhaps had the best chance to alter the game’s outcome when he rose up for a go-ahead 3 from the left baseline with Squalicum trailing 59-57 with 17 seconds left. The ball bounced off the far side of the rim, River Ridge rebounded and the Storm’s hope of a Hardwood Classic trip to Yakima vanished.
The Hawks made two free throws and sealed the game, handing the Storm a tough 63-57 season-ending loss in a matchup of two more-than-worthy final eight teams Friday, Feb. 26, at Puyallup High School.
Damek Mitchell, who scored 11 points in the first quarter before getting into foul trouble, finished with a game-high 25 points for the Storm (19-5), and Westbrook finished with 13 points and seven rebounds. Sharpshooter Darious Powell was limited to six.
The loss marked the second consecutive year the Storm ended its season with a defeat to River Ridge. The Hawks beat the Storm in Yakima last year during the state tournament’s third-place game.
“I thought we played with tremendous effort and tremendous heart,” Dickson said.
Squalicum built an early 18-9 lead on River Ridge in large part of Mitchell’s hot start. Following a Hawks run, the game was back and forth the rest of the way.
River Ridge’s Kelle Sanders scored at the halftime buzzer to put the Hawks in front 31-29 at the break, and River Ridge pushed its lead to 44-36, its largest of the game, with 1:45 to go in the third.
Mitchell helped tie the game in the fourth after he ripped the ball from a River Ridge player’s hand under the Hawks’ basket and scored and got fouled before making the following free throw. He added a layup on the next possession to pull Squalicum even at 47 with 6:10 to go in the fourth.
The rest of the way was high drama.
Mitchell gave Squalicum a 50-49 lead after making three free throws with 4:54 left, and Giovanni Melley, who pulled down a game-high 12 rebounds, made a layup to put the Storm in front again, 54-52 with 2:12 to play.
River Ridge’s Issiah Scott hit a crucial go-ahead 3 with 1:30 to play, and Squalicum couldn’t get the upper hand after that.
“All the teams we lost to are still playing,” Dickson said. “None of the teams we lost to this year are knocked out. That is a tribute to the consistency of the guys, and I thought our seniors provided leadership for the team and stability. They leave a great legacy for the younger guys.”
River Ridge 63, Squalicum 57
Squalicum: Josiah Westbrook 13, Noah Westerhoff 1, Simran Parmar 3, Josh Vail 0, Ben Wolters 0, Darious Powell 6, Damek Mitchell 25, Creighton Kaui 5, Giovanni Melley 4.
River Ridge: LaBrandon Price 7, Trey Dorfner 0, Kobe Key 12, Mac Armstrong 5, Jaden White 15, Kelle Sanders 8, Issiah Scott 15.