When it comes to playoff time, one hot player can keep an underdog in a game. And one key spurt can lift a favorite to victory.
Both happened Tuesday night in the boys District 8 4A playoff game between Lewis and Clark – the underdog – and Greater Spokane League champion Central Valley – in the favorite’s role.
Austin Damon’s 20 first-half points powered the Tigers to a halftime lead, but a 16-3 run midway the third quarter helped the Bears to a 56-48 home victory and a berth in Friday night’s winner-to-regionals game at U-Hi.
“Just a lot of times it’s the little things” that make the difference, CV coach Rick Sloan said.
And one of those little things, Sloan said, is knowing Damon is a shooter – and guarding him.
The Bears, 18-3 and ranked third in the state, did little of that before halftime and the 6-foot-6 senior missed just one shot in the first half. At intermission, the Tigers were shooting 50 percent from the floor and led 28-23.
“It was pretty good all-around (defense), but he was just making them,” CV senior guard Dustin Dach said of Damon’s effort that ended in a game-high 25 points.
But the third quarter was different, as Central Valley swarmed Damon, limiting him to three shots, only one of which – a 20-footer with 3 minutes, 10 seconds left in the period – fell. Without Damon’s firepower, the LC offense sputtered, converting just 4 of 13 third-quarter attempts.
And the Bears took off. The game-deciding run started simply. Dach chased a loose ball into the stands and came out limping.
“No, not at all,” he said, laughing, when asked if it helped his shooting. “I don’t know what happened. Some magic, maybe?”
Whatever it was, he hit a 20-footer on the baseline, cutting into LC’s 33-25 lead – the Tigers’ largest of the game.
From there Lewis and Clark (12-9) missed 5 of 6 shots, turned the ball over twice and CV’s Dach and Eli Wiecking split the Bears’ next four 3-pointers.
With Gaven Deyarmin adding a free throw in the stretch, the Bears built a 41-36 lead.
That expanded to 54-40 midway through the fourth quarter on Austin Rehkow’s 20-footer, three of his team-high 13 points, and CV coasted in.
But the impetus for this win, the Bears’ 15th in a row, belonged to Dach (nine points), Wiecking (eight) and the second-half defense.
“We picked up our defense a little bit in the third quarter, they had a couple misses and that led to a couple transition buckets,” Sloan said. “Shots started falling for us, with Dustin and Eli. Once we got the lead, we started playing with more confidence.
“We were talking about it on the bench. Every night it’s somebody different. Tonight, I thought Eli gave us a big lift in the third quarter.”
Gonzaga Prep 52, Ferris 49: The Saxons opened an eight-point lead in the third, but the Bullpups charged back in the fourth.
In the final minutes, TJ Bracey came up big at the free-throw line for G-Prep, making all four of his attempts.
Bracey led the Bullpups with 14 points, five rebounds and five assists. Reed Hopkins added 10 points and Ryan Gregory had seven assists.
G-Prep made 7 of 19 3-pointers to the Saxons’ 3 of 13.
Nathan Galgalo led Ferris with 13 points, Jeff Hahn had 12 and Chris Wilson added 11.