In its most important game to date, the Gonzaga Prep boys basketball team’s offense played the best all season.
Couple the hot shooting with the usual tenacious defense and it’s easy to see why the South Kitsap Wolves didn’t have a fighting chance Saturday afternoon.
Gonzaga Prep is headed back to state following an 87-69 victory in a 4A Regional game at Central Valley.
The Bullpups (21-4) will learn their opening-round opponent today. State begins Thursday at the Tacoma Dome.
G-Prep and South Kitsap ran around seemingly at break-neck speed in the opening quarter before the Bullpups settled for a 17-16 lead.
Then the Bullpups took off in the second, leaving the Wolves in their wake.
G-Prep used an 11-2 surge to open the period for a 28-18 lead by the time Sam Dowd hit the second of two 3-pointers with 4:48 to go in the first half. Two more Dowd 3-pointers and one from Ryan Alexander propelled the Bullpups to a 43-28 lead by halftime.
“It was outstanding,” G-Prep coach Matty McIntyre said. “Having the week to prepare really benefitted us. The kids obviously are doing the work on the floor, and in practice they prepared like champions.”
The Wolves like to run and gun. The Bullpups didn’t want to get caught up in that pace, but still found themselves having to take shots earlier in the shot clock than they desire.
“That was about two games’ worth of possessions,” McIntyre said. “We were getting quality shots early in the shot clock and we had to shoot them. We didn’t want to back off the aggressiveness and let them become the attackers.”
G-Prep didn’t lose its edge in the second half. The closest the Wolves (18-8) would get was 50-36 in the third quarter. The Bullpups kept their foot on the throttle.
A 3-pointer by Frankie Hoerner extended G-Prep’s lead to 74-52 with 4:28 remaining.
Dowd led four Bullpups in double-figure scoring with 26 points – all coming in the final three quarters. He took one shot and missed in the first period. He made 4 of 5 from long range, and had seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.
Hoerner, making his first start because post Jamil Foster missed much of the week with an injured toe, made the most of it, finishing with 20 points. Ryan Alexander had 13 points, Brendan McClary poured in 11 points to go with eight assists and five rebounds and Reed Hopkins added 10 points and eight rebounds.
“I’ve tried to step up when I get my opportunities,” Hoerner said.
The focus of G-Prep’s man-to-man defense was limiting South Kitsap’s two chief weapons – guards Ryley Callaghan and Caulin Bakalarski. They each scored 17 points, close to their averages, but it took them more shots than they’d like. They combined to make 11 of 34 attempts.
“We really wanted to frustrate them,” McIntyre said. “We really tried to make that a team effort on them. We wanted to make someone else beat us. They hit their averages but it took a lot of shots to get them there.”