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Shadle Park rallies to earn state berth

It wasn’t exactly a comeback, the near-miracle Shadle Park conjured up Friday night.

It was more of a “clawback,” 6 minutes of scrappiness at both ends of the court that fueled a 55-51 win over Kennewick and earned the Highlanders a spot in next week’s State 3A tournament in Tacoma.

“They have a lot of heart, that’s for sure,” Shadle coach Tim Gaebe said as players and fans poured onto the floor at Mt. Spokane High School.

But until the fourth quarter, Gaebe didn’t know how much heart they had; trailing by 44-36 with 7 minutes left in the game, he appealed to his players.

“We were having trouble getting into a rhythm on offense,” said Gaebe, who instead called on his players to get a stop.

That seemed a tall order against a Kennewick team that hit four straight 3-pointers late in the third and early in the fourth quarter.

But the Highlanders (10-13) got one stop, then another – “chopping wood,” Gaebe called it – and they converted their fast-break chances at the other end.

Post Dale Hagen was on the receiving end of two straight passes against the Kennewick press, and he converted both into layups to give the Highlanders a 45-44 lead with 3:58 left.

Then Skyler Kelly joined the fun with a rebound and layup. Andreas Brown did the same before Hagen got the last of his team-high 15 points with two free throws that gave Shadle a 51-44 advantage with 1:45 left.

“We just decided to start working harder,” said Hagen, citing the scrappiness of point guard Alvin Welch and his pressure defense when it mattered most.

“He really came up big,” Hagen said.

Indeed, it fell to Welch to put the game away after Kennewick’s John Wuol hit a 3-pointer to cut the Shadle lead to 53-51 with 24 seconds left.

Welch darted through the Lions’ press, drew a foul and calmly made two free throws with 12 seconds left. For good measure, he led one last defensive charge that kept the Lions from getting off even one – let alone two – decent shots at the end.