KENNEWICK – Gonzaga Prep took a different approach to its basketball game this weekend from the one it had while being humbled at home on Tuesday. As a result, the Bullpups on Saturday turned the tables on the Richland Bombers with a 66-53 victory and qualified for next week’s State 4A tournament in Tacoma.
“We definitely were overconfident,” said Bullpups shooting guard Sean Fischer, of that first-round regional 4A basketball loss to the Bombers. “We thought we didn’t have to play hard to beat them.”
G-Prep swept three games in two days at the Toyota Center in Kennewick, two on Saturday.
“We just wanted to get over there (to state) and play,” coach Mike Haugen said of the Greater Spokane League and District 8 champions. “We’re excited to meet whomever – the tougher the better.”
Being forced to win three straight in two days isn’t the ideal way, but Fischer found his game again, scoring 51 points in the three wins, including 21 Saturday morning during a 49-34 win over Lewis and Clark.
Afterward, he said he couldn’t wait for the rematch with Richland.
It was a different team in the 7 p.m. nightcap of the regional event. The Bullpups (23-3) never trailed and this time matched Richland’s hustle.
Fischer hit a 3-pointer for a 5-2 lead. The advantage was 17-9 after a quarter and G-Prep weathered every rally Richland (16-10) threw at it.
The Bullpups were the rebounding aggressors, with Ryan Nicholas snagging 10 and players such as Chris Sarbaugh, Nic Hellenthal and Travis Long crashing the boards.
Nicholas, who struggled on Tuesday, was back to his old offensive self as well, scoring 50 points for the weekend. He had 16 (Long added 13 and Fischer 12) against Richland.
The Bombers rallied to within two points midway through the second quarter, but Long scored twice and Hellenthal once on a brilliant reverse layin, to pull away again.
Richland cut it to within a point after three quarters, before Long’s three-point play inside and three baskets by Nicholas, the second thanks to a hustle rebound by Sarbaugh, led to a 45-35 advantage with 5:28 to play.
“It was all about confidence,” said Fischer, who had been in a slight shooting slump after spraining his ankle. “You have to come out aggressive. Getting out of it was the hard part. (This weekend) it was all inside out. The bigs got me the ball.”
Haugen said that rather than dwell on last Tuesday’s upset loss, they decided to concentrate on the positives of their 20-2 regular season and district effort.
“Another thing we did is put it in the seniors’ hands,” he said. “Most have been on varsity three years and worked to get here.”
G-Prep ran past Wenatchee, slowed things down against LC and did both against Richland.
Gonzaga Prep 49, Lewis and Clark 34: The Bullpups took a page out of LC’s patience book and limited the Tigers (14-12) to nine second-half points, ending LC’s season. Fischer and Nicholas combined for 19 of Prep’s 22 second-half points. Fischer, who made five 3-pointers, finished with 21 in the game.
Austin Ehlo, who was 6 for 7 from the field for the game, hit back-to-back 3s to pull LC to within two points at halftime.
Fischer scored seven points in the third quarter as the Bullpups built a 36-31 lead. Nicholas scored nine points in the fourth.
Nicholas was first-team all-regional, Fischer and LC’s Sean Hoffmann made second team.
Eisenhower beat Walla Walla 45-42 for the regional title. Both qualified for state.