The first three times Gonzaga Prep and Ferris played this season, the differences were fingernail thin.
The fourth time, with a single regional berth on the line, the difference was Frankie Hoerner.
Hoerner, a senior reserve, kept the Bullpups in the game in the second quarter and then scored a key basket with 24 seconds left as G-Prep got past the Saxons, 68-61 at Ferris.
“Tonight was Frankie’s night,” said Prep coach Matty McIntyre outside a raucous Prep locker room. “He’s been rock solid for us all year and I’m really happy for him to make a memory he’ll never forget.”
Hoerner’s memory contains a career-high 15 points, including 13 in the second quarter, when the Pups (20-4) found themselves trailing 21-13 and defensive stopper Ryan Alexander was saddled with two fouls.
Up jumped Hoerner, who had scored Prep’s first basket of the quarter before returning to the bench.
His second possession back on the floor he nailed a 20-footer. Two possessions later another. Then he converted a Sam Dowd steal into a fastbreak layup. And, as the clock ticked down before half, his 21-footer found the net and gave Prep a 32-30 edge.
“I woke up feeling confident and knowing that I (didn’t) want my senior season to be over,” explained Hoerner, one of seven Gonzaga seniors who will be making their first trip to state, the first since the school won the 2010-11 4A title.
“I felt like Frankie kept us in it in the first half,” McIntyre said.
Mainly because Jensen Rye and Cody Benzel were trying to shoot the Pups out of it – again.
Rye, a 6-foot-9 post, averaged 14.7 points a game in the earlier Prep matchups. He had eight at halftime and finished with 17. And Benzel, who scored 45 in the first three games, had 11 of his team-high 20 before intermission.
After the break Prep turned to a more consistent source, 5-foot-7 point guard Sam Dowd, who led G-Prep with 20 points.
The smallest player on either team came up large in the third quarter, scoring 10 points, including three free throws when he was fouled and a Ferris player was cited for a technical after the whistle.That was part of 27 free throws the Pups shot (they made 19). Ferris shot six, just one in the second half.
The Bullpups took a 50-45 lead into the final quarter, the first time this season they led the sixth-ranked Saxons (18-5) at that point. Of course, Ferris scored the first five of the quarter and the game see-sawed from there.
With a little over a minute left and Prep up 62-61, Brendan McClary stole the ball and was fouled. He made one free throw. After a Ferris miss, Jamil Foster made another free throw. Another Saxon miss and the ball found Hoerner’s hands at the elbow. He drained the 15-footer and Prep was moving on.