Jake Straughan stood at midcourt, hands on hips, as his teammate walked off the court with five fouls with more than 3 minutes left to play in Colton’s semifinal battle with Shorewood Christian Friday evening.
Dalton Patchen had stepped into the middle of the lane ahead of a driving Lion and was whistled for a blocking foul, and the player who had carried the Wildcats on his back in the quarterfinals took a seat.
Straughan, a senior who missed the first 14 games of the season after breaking his leg in Colton’s final football game, set his jaw.
“I just told myself that I was not going to let my teammates down,” he said.
“I was going to put this team on my back and we were going to win this game.”
The coach, on the other hand, had a few different thoughts.
“I was glowering at the officials over that call,” Colton coach Seth Paine admitted. “And then I took a quick look at the clock and saw that there was 3:10 left. I finally I turned to my young guys and I just told them to play as hard as they could on defense.”
Straughan hit 5 of 6 from the free-throw line in the final minutes, capping a 30-point effort, to hold Shorewood Christian at bay and secure a 61-58 win and earn Colton the chance to play for its first state boys championship in school history.
“I’m blessed,” Paine said. “To have a guy who can do what Dalton did last night and then to have a different guy do the same thing tonight – most teams are lucky to have one kid who can do that. I’m at a Class 1B school and I have two. There are lots of Class 4A schools who can’t say that.”
Colton will play in an All-Whitman County League final, meeting Pomeroy for the third time this season. The Pirates won both regular-season meetings, taking a 45-37 decision at Colton and winning 62-50 at Pomeroy.
“This is going to be fun,” Paine said. “Their two big guys are a nightmare, but we’re excited to play them one more time.”
But this will be a different Colton team.
“Missing the start of the season was really tough,” Straughan said. “That was the hardest time in my life, to be honest.”
For the Wildcats, it’s a chance to live up to their opening act.
The Colton girls play for their sixth straight 1B title immediately following the boys title game.
“We have the best opening act there is,” Paine said. “We follow Shakespeare every night. We know just how much hard work (coach Clark) Vining has put into building that program.”
But at the same time, Straughan said, it’s tough watching the girls celebrate when the boys have seen their season end shy of winning the golden ball.
“We love them and support them, but to be honest, it’s tough,” he said. “We’re excited to get the chance to play on that stage, too.”
“Two years ago we lost (semifinal) game to Neah Bay by five,” Paine said. “Both Dalton and Jake played on that team. And last year our season had a frustrating end to it. These guys have worked hard to get here.”