In a game that could have gone either way, it was the perennial winners who took control.
Northwest Christian, winners of five of the past six State 2B boys basketball titles, came alive after halftime and secured a spot in next week’s state tournament with a 72-64 win over White Swan in a regional final Friday night at Mt. Spokane High School.
Kwinn Hanson sparked the Crusaders’ second-half run. The senior scored 17 of his game-high 24 points in the second half as Northwest Christian (24-1) finally took advantage of its size advantage.
“I just decided to pick my team up and win,” Hanson said. “It wasn’t an option to lose.”
Despite their lack of size, the Cougars held their own in the first half, pestering the defending champs on defense. Northwest Chrisitian committed 10 first-half turnovers.
“You can look at all the film you want but you don’t realize how quick they are until you play,” Crusaders’ coach Ray Ricks said of White Swan’s speed.
Dakota Winward lead the Crusaders in the first quarter. Winward scored seven points in the first as Northwest Christian jumped ahead 17-11. White Swan opened the second on an 8-2 run to even the score at 19 with a little more than 5 minutes left before halftime.
Hanson scored six of the next seven points for the Crusaders as the teams entered halftime tied at 29.
Northwest Christian picked up the intensity in the third.
“We just used our size and strength and took control,” Ricks said.
Hanson said they settled down and got back to their game plan in the second half.
“It was a game-changer,” Hanson said. “It doesn’t work when everyone is freaking out and running around. We took control and ran our offense.”
Winward’s lay-in with 3:40 left in the game gave the Crusaders a 64-53 advantage – their biggest lead of the game. Northwest Christian made six free throws in the final 1:20 to seal the win.
Winward finished with 17 points – including three 3-pointers – and Reuben Clark added eight points and 11 rebounds for the Crusaders.
Colfax 76, Oroville 38: Kyle Johnson hit three straight 3-pointers to open the game and the Bulldogs (19-5) routed the Hornets at Mt. Spokane.
Brady Ellis had 20 points and Brandon Gfeller added 18 points, six rebounds and five assists as Colfax dominated from the outset.
The Bulldogs earned a berth to the state tournament while Oroville was eliminated.
“It’s obviously a good momentum-builder,” coach Reece Jenkin said. “We’re finally healthy and playing good basketball and our experience should help us out quite a bit at state.”
“Everyone is in sync and we’re feeling really good right now.”