With two games left in Greater Spokane League boys basketball, there’s a three-way tie at the top.
Ferris forced the logjam Thursday, knocking off leader Central Valley 64-62 in a well-played game at Ferris.
If Ferris, Central Valley and Gonzaga Prep – each 14-2 – win their games Tuesday, it sets up a showdown two days later between the Saxons and G-Prep to decide the top seed to the District 8 tournament.
The final 3 minutes were chock full of drama, superlative plays and knee-knocking moments.
Cody Benzel’s two free throws with 4 seconds remaining gave Ferris a 64-61 lead. Saxons coach Don Van Lierop told his players to foul and send the Bears to the free-throw line for a one-and-one to avoid CV making another jaw-dropping 3-pointer as it had on two previous possessions.
Matt Belles fouled A.J. Knudsen, who stepped to the foul line and made the first with 2.6 seconds to go. He purposely missed the second and the ball caromed around before the Bears’ sharpshooting Justin Fayant got the ball and in one motion shot a jumper just inside the top of the circle. The ball went in and out as the buzzer sounded.
“The coaches tell us to stay poised, and we got the ball to our key guys,” Ferris’ Jared Christy said.
It could have been a preview of the district championship, although G-Prep is sure to have a say in the title matchup.
Ferris went 12 of 12 from the foul line in the final period, including 10 of 10 in the final 1:50 to keep the Bears at bay.
“I thought the biggest difference was they hit their free throws down the stretch,” CV coach Rick Sloan said.
The teams played to a 27-27 tie in the first half. The Saxons did this while the league’s leading scorer, Benzel, went 0 for 5 from the field as Knudsen, who was guarding him, didn’t allow him a good look.
Benzel didn’t score his first basket until the 3:20 mark of the third, but he finished with 17 points, matching the output of Christy, who also had a team-high eight rebounds.
“It’s our team’s first clutch win,” Benzel said.
The Bears had a balanced offensive effort with four players reaching double figures. It appeared they might get over the hump in the fourth when Austin Daines got a steal and layup to pull the Bears within 50-49 with 2:54 remaining.
But Ferris extended the lead back to five points.
That’s where the margin stood, 60-55, when Belles made two free throws with 31 seconds to go. But back-to-back 3-pointers from Knudsen and Daines pulled CV within 62-61 with six seconds remaining.
That’s when the Saxons fouled.
“To me, if there’s ever a scenario to use that, that would be it,” Van Lierop said. “They just made two clutch, deep, quick, 3s. They did a nice job themselves trying to get a shot to win it.”
Ferris did a good job in the final minute finding Benzel on inbounds passes against full-court pressure in the final minute. Sure enough, Benzel got the ball again and was fouled with four seconds to go.
“We had control of our own destiny and now we might need a little bit of help,” Sloan said.
Fayant led CV with 14 points. Beau Byus had 11 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots, Knudsen had 13 points and Chamberlain finished with 12 points and five assists.
Gonzaga Prep 64, Mt. Spokane 50: The host Bullpups (15-3, 14-2) opened a 37-23 lead in the first half and found themselves tied for first place at game’s end. Reed Hopkins led with 18 points, Sam Dowd had 13, Ryan Alexander pitched in 11 and Jamil Foster had 10. Stu Stiles led Mt. Spokane (5-13, 3-13) with 13 and Jacob Krantz added 12.
Shadle Park 78, Rogers 67: The Highlanders (7-10, 7-9) put four players in double figures as they rallied past the visiting Pirates (5-13, 5-11). Skyler Kelley led Shadle with 23 points, George Pilimai had 18 and N’Keil Nelson added 17 as Shadle outscored Rogers 24-10 in the fourth quarter. Robert Rucker led Rogers with 18 points, Melik Hampton had 17 and Domonic Sanders added 13. Rogers led 44-40 at halftime.
Mead 54, University 48: Will McPhee scored a career-high 27 points as the Panthers (11-7, 10-6) rallied past the visiting Titans (9-9, 7-9). Michael Isotalo led U-Hi with 17 and Ben Kuiper had 11. Mead trailed 30-24 at half but outscored U-Hi 19-5 in the decisive fourth. Thomas Kautzman supported McPhee with 12 points.