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Curtis’ Patrick Cooks, left, leans over a sprawled TJ Bracey of Gonzaga Prep as James Cooks defends. (Associated Press)

Tough defense leads Gonzaga Prep’s boys to State 4A title

TACOMA – The heartbreak was all first-year Gonzaga Prep boys basketball coach Matty McIntyre could bear last season when his team that had great state expectations fell disappointingly short last season.

So imagine the opposite emotion of the spectrum that McIntyre embraced late Saturday evening.

The Bullpups saved perhaps their best defense for when it counted most, smothering the Curtis Vikings 61-41 in the boys State 4A championship game at the Tacoma Dome.

“It’s been a funny turn of events in the last year,” McIntyre said. “I’ve got to tell you that we left this exact same floor and our hearts were broken. We really thought we had a chance to do it (win a state title). A lot of this success carries over to the seniors we had last year.”

McIntyre was just getting started with the thank-yous.

“Those seniors and all the people who have come before us,” McIntyre said. “This has been building for a long time. Coach Mike Haugen gave this program to me in a very good situation and set this up. This doesn’t happen with a one-year performance. This has been building for a long time.”

G-Prep (23-3) ended the game on a 10-0 run after the Vikings (22-6) had pulled within 51-41 with 3:30 to go.

Bullpups senior Chris Sarbaugh was named the tournament most valuable player. He finished with 17 points, 10 rebounds and six assists. Senior Parker Kelly, whose father Terry led G-Prep to third in 1976, had a game-high 24 points and five rebounds. He was named to the all-tournament second team.

“Defense. That’s how it’s been the whole year,” Sarbaugh said.

The Bullpups started to seize the gold ball in the third quarter when they suffocated the Vikings with defense. They held Curtis to five points, opening the period with a 15-3 run for their biggest lead at 44-25.

“That was the game,” Sarbaugh said. “They couldn’t get any closer (than 10) because of what we did in the third quarter. We just didn’t let them score.”

The Bullpups use a term to describe their team defense – swarm.

Sarbaugh was asked what makes G-Prep’s defense so effective.

“We help each other,” he said. “We stay low and help each other. We know if we help someone that someone is going to help us. We’re unselfish on defense.”

In the first half, defense was front and center for the Bullpups as they allowed 22 points and never trailed.

G-Prep’s usually disciplined offense had moments of sloppiness, though. The Bullpups had three turnovers at the end of the first quarter and start of the second. Then they missed four shots within 4 feet of the basket as the Vikings pulled within 16-13 with 5:35 left in the second.

But the Bullpups righted themselves, using baskets by Kelly and Ryan Gregory to build a 23-15 lead. The breakaway layup by Gregory, with a body clinging to him, was set up nicely by a steal from Stephen Ferraro, who lobbed a perfect pass in stride.

Ferraro finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and three assists.

G-Prep led by eight points two more times. WSU signee Davonte Lacy, who had 12 points in the first half, completed a three-point play to pull the Vikings within 27-22 with 28 seconds left before halftime. He finished with 24.

A jumper by Sarbaugh just inside the free-throw line with 3 seconds to go gave the Bullpups a 29-22 lead heading into intermission.

G-Prep scored 12 points off Curtis turnovers in the first half while giving up just five on its mistakes.

“We knew beating Davis (in the state opener) was a huge step for us,” Sarbaugh said. “Coming over here, we had our confidence up. We knew no team had seen our defense – they’ve never seen a defense like us. That’s what we took pride in and worked so hard on.”