TACOMA – From the opening tip, it was obvious the University boys basketball team was determined to capture the third-place trophy Saturday morning.
The Titans did pretty much what they wanted to do as University was too much for the Kamiakin Braves, winning 63-50 in the State 3A game to decide third and fifth places at the Tacoma Dome.
“This was important,” University coach Garrick Phillips said. “We talked about coming over here and feeling like we were a hair away from taking the big ball home. They didn’t want to go 1-2, that would have left a bad taste in their mouth for the rest of these guys’ lives.”
The University girls, meanwhile, ran into a much more athletic team, falling to the Cleveland Eagles 50-40 in the game for third and fifth.
University 63, Kamiakin 50: The Titans (21-5) started fast, hit a pothole or two and then finished fast in the first half for a 34-25 lead.
A 9-0 surge in the third quarter gave the Titans separation they enjoyed the rest of the game.
U-Hi’s transition game worked well as the Titans repeatedly beat the Braves (23-3) down the floor. A layup by Zach Bruce off a fastbreak extended U-Hi’s lead to 43-29 with 3:07 to go in the third quarter.
A 3-pointer from Jared Miller and a layup by Brett Bailey made it 57-40 U-Hi with 4:45 to go.
“For them to turn around on short rest and perform like that, and show the guys what they have, it’s a tribute to how tough these kids are and how lucky I was to coach them,” Phillips said.
Miller, Bailey and Conner Johnson each had 13 points. Johnson had to fight through foul trouble. Zane McDonald led with eight rebounds and Bruce had four assists.
“We were kind of flat in the third quarter for a while,” Phillips said. “We lost our aggressiveness a little bit trying to play the clock and we didn’t want to lose control of the way we play. That was a big focus for us to keep playing our style and we did a great job of that in the second half.”
The future is bright at U-Hi.
“I’m excited about the future, but I want to enjoy this with these kids,” Phillips said.
Senior Zech Martin was pleased with the season.
“It’s my last time playing with these guys and I’m glad we ended it on a win,” he said.
Cleveland 50, University 40: The Titans battled from behind early, and managed to pull even midway in the second quarter.
But Cleveland just had too many offensive weapons for the Titans to counter.
Cleveland used a 13-2 run to end the first half for a 33-22 lead.
A 3-pointer by Hallie Gennett pulled the Titans (17-9) within 33-30 early in the third quarter, but that was as close as U-Hi got.
“They battled the whole game, and it’s tough three days in a row, and your legs are shot, but they were a little more athletic than we were,” U-Hi coach Mark Stinson said. “It seemed like every time we’d get close we’d make a foul. They’re a really good team.”
Myzhanique Ladd led Cleveland (22-7) with 14 points and seven rebounds. Cassie Shillam led U-Hi with 15 points and seven rebounds. Kayleigh Valley, despite foul trouble, managed 12 points and three steals. Gennett had eight rebounds.
“If somebody would have told us we’d get fifth place at state at the beginning of the year we would have taken that,” Stinson said.