A year ago, Gonzaga Prep lost in the first round of the 4A regional boys basketball tournament. Until the final 11 minutes of Tuesday night’s game against visiting Walla Walla, the Bullpups faced the specter of a repeat performance.
Ryan Nicholas wouldn’t let it happen.
Trailing most of the game and 42-33 late in the third quarter, Nicholas – as he so often has – willed G-Prep to a 70-62 victory.
The double-elimination tournament shifts to Kennewick’s Toyota Center for Friday and Saturday and qualifies four teams to state. The Bullpups play Richland in Friday’s 9 p.m. semifinal on the main court. The Bombers (21-3) crushed Eisenhower (17-8) 91-69.
Mead, a 60-50 victor over Davis, plays Kamiakin, a 60-45 winner over University, in the other semifinal at 7. U-Hi plays Davis at 9 and Walla Walla plays Eisenhower at 7 in loser-out games.
G-Prep scored 12 straight points in the final three minutes of the third quarter take its first lead since two minutes into the game.
Nicholas scored 23 second-half points and had 31 overall to lead the way. Sophomore TJ Bracey had his best game of the season, hitting two timely 3-pointers in the third quarter and 12 of his 15 points in the second half. Chris Sarbaugh, with defense and rebounding, provided ignition.
“There’s no doubt,” said Nicholas when asked if he was worried about history repeating. “We didn’t want to have to go through that (winning) three games in a row again over the weekend. We knew we had to take care of business here at home when we had the chance.”
G-Prep (21-2) was the Greater Spokane League No. 2 seed and visiting Walla Walla (20-4) No. 3, but they had two of the eastern region’s best three records. The Blue Devils also had 23-point-a-game Idaho recruit Gary Winston and 18-point scorer, 6-foot-7 Montana recruit Michael Weisner, to deal with.
Neither factored early, but Colton Arias did, fueling the visitors’ 18-7 start. When G-Prep tried to rally, hot-shooting Wa-Hi held them at bay. The Blue Devils shot 60 percent from the field as Winston and Weisner heated up. They finished the night with 21 and 18 points, respectively.
“They were hitting shots, goodness gracious,” G-Prep coach Matty McIntyre said. “Our whole game was (stopping) Winston and Weisner and, shoot, the Arias kid hurt us a little too much. But we stuck to our guns and we said hopefully eventually they’re going to miss.”
Sure enough, things turned around. Walla Walla was just 2 for 11 over the game’s final 11 minutes.
Mead 60, Davis 50: The Panthers (18-5) are a win away from state after opening a comfortable lead in the third quarter against the visiting Pirates (18-7). Mead missed first-half scoring opportunities, but held the visitors to six points in the third period to take a 42-31 lead. Aaron Dunn scored 18 points, Taylor Farnsworth 14.
Kamiakin 60, University 45: The host Braves (19-5), No. 2 in the Columbia Basin Big Nine, jumped out to a big 30-12 halftime lead to knock off the Titans (11-13) at Kennewick. Spencer Drury was most of U-Hi’s offense with 20 points.
Three of four remaining 3A teams are from the GSL. Saturday at the Toyota Center, North Central plays Sunnyside at 3 p.m., followed by Shadle Park vs. Rogers at 5. The tourney moves to Rogers for its completion next week and qualifies two teams to state.
Rogers 63, West Valley-Yakima 46: The Pirates (12-11) took to the road and won convincingly on the strength of a 25-8 second-quarter burst. Four players finished in double figures, led by Deavon Daniels’ 20.
North Central 52, East Valley 43: The host Indians (13-10) ended the Knights’ (3-20) season, pulling away after an early lead melted to one point. Ed Richardson scored 13 of his 16 points in the second half.
District 7 2A
West Valley 56, Cheney 30: Brady Bagby poured in 20 points and added six rebounds and five assists to spark the fourth-seeded Eagles (13-8) to a loser-out victory over the fifth-seeded Blackhawks (13-8) at WV.
WV moves on to play at top-seeded Clarkston at 7 p.m. Friday in a winner-to-state game.
Pullman 49, Riverside 42: Austin Drake tossed in 12 points and Josh Weitz scored 10 to propel the third-seeded Greyhounds (11-10) past the sixth-seeded Rams (7-14) in a loser-out game in Pullman.
Pullman plays at No. 2 seed Deer Park at 7 p.m. Friday in a winner-to-state game.