Twenty-two seconds remained and Gonzaga Prep, which had clawed back from a nine-point deficit, had a chance to force overtime.
But the defense of Mead, so tough all game, proved unrelenting and denied the Bullpups one last look. The Panthers (17-5) playing in G-Prep’s gymnasium Thursday night, claimed their first District 8 4A boys basketball championship since 2003 with a 53-50 triumph over the Bullpups (20-2). Mead has handed G-Prep both of its losses.
The game determined the first and second seeds to next week’s regional tournament, which will decide four state berths in games against the Columbia Basin Big Nine.
Defense was the order of the day for both miserly teams – fitting in a game for the district title.
Open looks proved tough to come by. Although it would be tempting to dismiss the work of Mead’s Aaron Dunn, given that G-Prep scoring star Ryan Nicholas finished with 22 points, they had to be the hardest-earned points of Nicholas’ season.
“All week long we focused on not allowing teams in the paint,” Dunn said. “It was a battle, definitely. I was trying to stay low and feel I’m strong enough not to have to front him.”
When G-Prep had the ball at the end of the game, Dunn was instrumental in preventing a 3-point shot.
“He hedged on (guard) Chris Sarbaugh and derailed the last possession,” Panthers coach Glenn Williams said. “The rest of the kids helped on Nicholas.”
Williams also took note of the third quarter, which proved vital to the outcome. Mead limited G-Prep to three points and took a 33-23 lead after trailing 20-17 at intermission.
G-Prep made a fourth-quarter run behind Nicholas, but Mead responded, including a huge 3-pointer by Garrett Swanson to make it 44-36 with 3:47 left.
With the Bullpups forced to press, the game fell into the hands of point guard Brenden Myers, who got to the basket and made 10 of 12 free throws in the fourth quarter.
“They were pressing so much, I just thought of like hitting those gaps – and if I could crunch it we’d get more guys open,” Myers said.
That proved the crux of the outcome. Nicholas got his points, but he had little support, other than Sarbaugh until the late charge. Dunn and Myers finished with 15 and 14 points, respectively, and Swanson reached double figures. Myers and Bo Tully each hit clutch 3-pointers to fuel the big third-quarter lead.
University 72, Ferris 66: The visiting Titans (11-12) outscored the Saxons (10-12) 29-15 in the fourth quarter and secured the GSL’s third regional berth. Each team had four double-figure scorers during the shootout. Kyle Bailey finished with 23 for U-Hi. Chris Wilson made seven 3-pointers for all of his 21 for the Saxons.
Shadle Park 58, North Central 52: The Highlanders had big first and third quarters, holding on to defeat the Indians for the championship and top seed to regional. The Indians (12-10) are No. 2.
The Highlanders (18-4) jumped to a 13-0 lead but trailed by halftime 22-19 on NC’s 17-4 run. The third quarter was Shadle’s turn, a 14-1 burst that helped put them ahead 38-27 in the third period.
Robby Douglas, the latest Highlander to pass 1,000 points for his career, scored 20, one of three double-figure scorers for the team.
NC will host East Valley at 6 p.m. Tuesday in a loser-out regional opener. Shadle has a bye until Feb. 27, when it awaits the winner between Tuesday’s 6 p.m. game between visiting Rogers and the CBBN’s No. 2.
Rogers 70, East Valley 67: In the game for third and fourth seeds, the visiting Knights (3-19) led much of the game by seven to 10 points and were ahead by one point before Deavon Daniels hit a driving layin with 7 seconds left and had a steal for the Pirates (11-11). Daniels finished with 24 points. Korie Sherman had a game-high 29 for EV.