Notes: King’s Way and Columbia River boys also qualify; Union girls, Prairie boys still alive
Toward the end, it was Avery Seter who got a steal and then assisted on Colby Shaw’s 3-pointer to tie the game.
Later, it was Hunter Ecklund with a drive to the basket to make for another tie.
And down the stretch, it was Seter making two free throws with 38 seconds left to give La Center the lead for good.
All three of those players are starters for the Wildcats.
La Center, however, has not won 12 consecutive games just because of its first five. La Center did not just qualify for the state round of 16 only because of the stars.
In fact, a case can be made that La Center would not have won Tuesday night’s Class 1A District 4 boys basketball semifinal without its role players who shined in the first half.
While the starters struggled to score for pretty much the entire first half, it was Evan Norris and Saige Keep who combined to score 15 points for the Wildcats.
Their big first half allowed La Center to stick close with Seton Catholic, allowing the starters time to find their rhythm.
In the very end, Seter made his free throws, the Wildcats got a stop on the defensive end, and La Center topped the Cougars 58-57.
Now, all of the Wildcats get to celebrate making it back to state regionals. La Center will take on another Trico League rival, King’s Way Christian, in the championship game of this tournament. But by just reaching the district title game, La Center and King’s Way are going to state.
Seton Catholic, meanwhile, gained plenty of confidence Tuesday night, leading top-seed La Center for almost the entire game. The Cougars have to win two in a row in the consolation bracket to make it to state.
La Center has been there before, though, and that experience showed when things were not going its way Tuesday. It takes the whole game, the whole group, to come up with the desired result for the Wildcats.
“I just try to play defense and fill my role and get rebounds for the team,” Norris said. “I felt really good coming in there. I feel like I can do this any time.”
Norris ended up with 13 rebounds, including eight offensive boards, giving his team more and more opportunities. He scored six of his team’s 10 points in the first quarter.
In the second quarter, it was Keep’s seven points that kept the Wildcats close. Seton Catholic had jumped out to a 10-point lead, but the margin was two by halftime.
Seton pushed the lead back up to eight points before Shaw closed the third quarter with a 3-pointer.
La Center got defensive from there.
“We stayed with our guys. We D’ed up and rebounded,” Seter said.
In fact, Seton Catholic was 2 for 14 in that final quarter.
Still, the Wildcats had to score, too. They were not having a good night at the line, shooting less than 50 percent as a team when Seter stepped up with 38 seconds to play.
“I was kind of nervous a little bit,” Seter acknowledged.
He did not look like it, though, making both for the lead.
“I just focused on the rim and shot it like I was in practice,” he said.
Seton Catholic got a decent look at a 3-pointer, but the shot was short. Jack Hiller grabbed the rebound and got his pass off before a foul was called, leading to a breakaway that killed off the rest of the clock.
Seton’s big night
It was a tough loss for the Cougars, but they have to feel good about their performance.
The Cougars lost by 18 and 29 points in the regular-season games against league champion La Center.
On this night, the Cougars only trailed for a few seconds in the first half, then not again until 3 minutes left in the game. Even then, Seton came right back to tie the game and would retake the advantage on Henry Demsky’s shot with a minute to play.
Demsky finished with 22 points and eight rebounds. Isaiah Parker had 20 points and nine boards for Seton.
Parker said this outing gives the Cougars confidence going into the consolation bracket. Seton will take on Stevenson in the third-place semifinals Thursday. The winner will play Saturday for the district’s final berth to state.
“I knew we could hang with these guys,” Parker said, noting the Cougars learned from their two losses, saw what they did wrong when they looked over the game video.
“We handled it well tonight,” Parker said. “Just didn’t work out for us in the end.”
More game notes
Seter finished with 15 points to lead La Center. Ecklund had 14 points. Shaw made three 3-pointers and scored 11 points. … Matthew Ken made three 3-pointers for Seton Catholic for his 11 points.
King’s Way Christian 66, Montesano 42
The King’s Way Christian Knights are returning to the state round of 16. The second-place team from the Trico League beat Montesano in the other semifinals of the 1A District 4 tournament.
“We were down 7-0 to start, and our guys didn’t flinch,” King’s Way Christian coach Devan Harmeling said. “I was really pleased with that.”
Before the Knights can think of the state regional round, they want a district championship.
“It’s exciting to punch our ticket to state for the fourth year in a row, but our primary focus is Saturday night’s game versus La Center,” the coach said. “They have beaten us by five both games this year.”
The Columbia River Chieftains advanced to the title game of the 2A District 4 tournament and clinched a trip to the state regional round with an impressive 61-45 victory Tuesday over W.F. West.
Jacob Hjort, after hitting the game-winner in the opening round of this tournament, made five 3-pointers to score a game-high 21 points to lead the Chieftains. Nate Snook added 15 points and Nasseen Gutierrez added 11 points.
The Chieftains outscored W.F. West by nine points in the fourth quarter to secure their first trip to state since 2015.
Columbia River will take on 2A Greater St. Helens League rival Mark Morris in the district championship game at 8 p.m. Friday at St. Martin’s University.
While it is not official, it appears Columbia River will play in a state regional seeding game the following week rather than a regional elimination game. The Chieftains are No. 5 in the RPI rankings. That would mean a seeding game and a guaranteed trip to the Yakima Valley SunDome as one of the final 12 teams in state.
Also in the 2A district tournament, Ridgefield and Washougal both lost consolation games Tuesday night. Their seasons came to an end.
Not only are the Union Titans still alive in the Class 4A bi-district girls basketball tournament, they now have two chances to win one game and earn a trip to the state regionals.
Mason Oberg made three 3-pointers and was 6-for-6 from the line, leading Union with 21 points in a 56-45 win over Tahoma in an elimination game.
Union will make its fourth trip to the Puget Sound in eight days to take on Todd Beamer on Thursday. The winner of that game will clinch a spot to state. The loser will get a second chance, playing again on Saturday.
Mackenzie Lewis made three 3-pointers and added 15 points for the Titans. Her cousin, Courtney Cranston, added eight points.
Meanwhile, the Camas Papermakers have already clinched a berth to state. They are in the bi-district semifinals and will take on Kentridge on Thursday.
The Prairie Falcons are one win away from a trip to the state regional round after a huge rally in the fourth quarter to take down Peninsula 65-59.
Down 11 at the half and by eight after three quarters, Prairie crushed it in the fourth quarter, outscoring the Seahawks 22-8 down the stretch.
Dante Heitschmidt made three 3-pointers and scored 19 points. Kameron Osborn added 18 points. Braiden Broadbent pitched in with 11.
Prairie will take on Capital in another elimination game at 7:45 p.m. Thursday at Clover Park High school. The winner of that game will qualify for state.
Capital took down Hudson’s Bay on Tuesday 60-44, ending Bay’s season.
Still, the Eagles know they made believers out of a lot of people after rallying just to make the playoffs. They started league play 0-7, won three in a row, then a tiebreaker, and eventually even got a victory in this b-district tournament.
Here are the brackets for the other four tournaments that did not play Tuesday but resume Wednesday: