ENDICOTT – For the better part of this season, the Rosalia Spartans have had a target on their backs. Carrying the state’s No. 1 ranking in 1B and possessing an undefeated record through the regular season and the district tournament, the Spartans have grown accustomed to teams routinely pushing them to their limit.
Using that pressure as motivation, Rosalia has answered the call time and again, and Friday against St. John-Endicott, the Spartans answered the bell, running away with a 60-39 victory to earn the District 9 1B tournament title as well as the No. 1 seed to the state tournament.
“The undefeated record has been very motivating,” said Rosalia senior Jim Maley, who scored 27 points and added 13 rebounds against the Eagles (12-11). “Every team has wanted to knock us off, but we’ve just played every game knowing the other team was going to gun for us and we had to play like we were at the bottom of the league.”
Maley helped get the Spartans (22-0) rolling out of the gate, scoring six of their 12 first-quarter points, but it was the defensive effort, coach Rob Hudkins said, that made the difference in the early going.
Rosalia held the Eagles to three first-quarter points and 12 in the first half, with Warren Miller scoring nine of those for SJE.
“Our focus was that we wanted to start fast and start strong,” Hudkins said. “We wanted to push it early and establish ourselves so we could get comfortable and keep pushing the lead.”
Starting the second half with a 13-point lead may have led to too much comfort for Rosalia, though, as the Eagles went on an 8-0 run to start the third quarter.
Any complacency was quickly erased. Maley hit a putback bucket at the 5-minute mark of the third quarter and the Spartans steadily pushed the lead to 22 in the fourth quarter on a pair of 3-pointers from Nathan Richards, who finished with 17 points and 10 boards.
“We knew we needed a bucket after that 8-0 run,” Maley said. “We just kept our cool and didn’t break down.”
The win ensured the Spartans of a third straight appearance in the state tournament in Yakima, something that has been the goal for the team the whole season.
“We’re relieved to finally earn that spot back so we can just concentrate on finding out who we play next week, go to state and ultimately get to Saturday and hopefully come home with a trophy,” Hudkins said.
Touchet 54, Colton 50: Marshall Byerly hit six 3-pointers and finished with 22 points as the Indians (13-11) eliminated the Wildcats (10-13) in Endicott to advance to today’s game to decide the district’s second team at the state tournament.
The Wildcats battled back in the second half behind 16 of Dustin Patchen’s 20 points, but they didn’t overcome a 10-point halftime deficit after Touchet used a 14-4 run to close the first half. Jacob Hodnefield scored six of his 11 points in the final frame, going 6 of 8 from the free-throw line.
The Indians will battle St. John-Endicott at 6 p.m.