TACOMA – Here’s the most telling thing about the Gonzaga Prep boys basketball team’s win Friday in the State 4A semifinals.
To a player, the Bullpups grabbed their backpacks stored behind the bench following their stunning 66-53 win over the No. 1-ranked and heavily favored Garfield Bulldogs, made the long walk to the locker room at the Tacoma Dome and acted like it was just another victory.
No overzealous celebrating. No acknowledgment that they had just shocked the team expecting to accept the state championship gold ball. For the Bullpups, it was just the second step in a three-step process.
Gonzaga Prep (22-3) meets the Curtis Vikings (23-5) in the championship tonight at 9:30.
“We came here to do something and we’re not going to be satisfied until we get it done,” Gonzaga Prep senior guard Chris Sarbaugh said. “There’s no reason to celebrate yet. It’s a big accomplishment for the whole Prep community and our basketball team but we came here to take care of business.”
That’s certainly what the Bullpups did on Friday, and as much as it may sound like a broken record, it started with defense.
And controlling the tempo and not allowing the Bulldogs to turn the game into a NASCAR mad dash to the finish line.
Garfield (23-4) never led, but that doesn’t mean the game didn’t have its tense moments.
G-Prep enjoyed an 11-point lead twice in the first quarter and four times led by 10 in the second period. But three straight turnovers to close the half allowed Garfield to pull within 33-27.
Then the Bulldogs trimmed G-Prep’s lead to 35-34 in the third quarter. It was at that point that the Bullpups’ top two scorers, Parker Kelly and Sarbaugh, had key back-to-back baskets. Sarbaugh converted a jumper off a rebound and Kelly buried a 3-pointer that edged the Bullpups ahead at 40-34 with 2:15 to go in the period.
Garfield never got closer than seven in the final period.
The first question G-Prep coach Matty McIntyre was asked was what he told his players afterward.
“We said eat a banana, eat some protein, we’re going to go and get some treatment and be ready to play tomorrow,” McIntyre said. “It’s very businesslike. I just think that there are very quiet expectations. We came here on a business trip and we’re trying to get the gold ball.”
Garfield coach Ed Haskins praised the Bullpups.
“Hat’s off to Gonzaga Prep,” Haskins said. “They’re a great team. They run their stuff. They’re disciplined. They were just a better team tonight. They’re a senior-heavy team. They wanted it, no question about it. I think, sometimes, when you get to the state championships sometimes it just comes down to a matter of who wants it more.”
There was no denying the Bullpups’ hunger.
Sarbaugh scored a game-high 24 points with 12 rebounds, four assists and three steals. Kelly had 19 points and five rebounds while Stephen Ferraro had 10 points.
McIntyre played just six guys – his usual starters and junior Ryan Gregory off the bench.
“There’s no substitute for experience,” McIntyre said of the short bench. “We’ve come up a little bit short the last couple of years. The guys expect a little bit more than what we’ve come away with in the past.”
Then McIntyre paused.
“Don’t tell anybody,” he quipped about playing just six. “I’ve got tough kids. The characteristic I value most is toughness and we’ve got tough kids.”