Sometimes when Plan A doesn’t work you switch to Plan B.
Jamaari Jones kept them in it early, Anton Watson put on the finishing touches and Greater Spokane League top-seeded Gonzaga Prep (22-0) ran away from Mid-Columbia Conference No. 2 seed Chiawana (11-11) 55-36 in a District 8 4A semifinal game on Saturday.
Gonzaga Prep, rated No. 1 in Class 4A in WIAA’s RPI calculations, advanced to the district championship game against Richland on Friday at the Arena. The No. 4-rated Bombers, the MCC’s top seed, overcame a halftime deficit to knock off Ferris 84-79 in the other semifinal.
Gonzaga Prep coach Matty McIntyre thinks the atmosphere at the Arena for the title game will help his team down the road.
“I think it’ll be a nice venue to simulate something like the Tacoma Dome,” he said. “We don’t play a spirit game so in that way I think it’ll be a good for our kids to get that experience. I’m sure it adds a little extra excitement for the kids and the fans as well.”
Jones scored 10 of his team-high 18 points in the first quarter, while Watson collected nine of his 16 points in the fourth quarter – after picking up his fourth foul. Sam Lockett added 12 points for the Bullpups.
“Jamaari was huge in the first quarter to keep things from getting too far apart,” McIntryre said.
Chiawana raced out to a 12-4 lead. G-Prep chipped away, with 6-foot-3 Jones working inside against 6-7 Mathew Kroner on three occasions for layups, and the Bullpups trailed 15-11 after one.
“We knew that they were going to close down on our bigs and try to match up with us,” Jones said.
“If they can’t stop what I’m doing, I’m going to keep playing my game.”
At the start of the second, G-Prep picked up the defensive intensity and steals led to a couple of transition buckets. Watson followed an errant alley-oop attempt with a tap-in, and Jones stole it on the next possession and tossed down a one-handed jam for G-Prep’s first lead at 20-19.
“They had a little different defense so we just had to adjust to it,” Watson said. “Defense is what we rely on so that helped a lot.”
A steal by Jacob Parola led to another uncontested layup by Jones to put the Bullpups up 26-19 and a Watson free throw completed a 13-point run. With 25 seconds left in the half, G-Prep set up for one shot and Watson’s two-handed dunk at the buzzer put Gonzaga Prep up 29-22.
“They have some really interesting defensive schemes, so this was really the way we envisioned the game to go. We didn’t think we were really going to come out and jump all over them,” McIntyre said. “That’s a really good team. Their record is probably a little bit deceiving with injuries early in the year.”
The Bullpups scored the first nine points of the second half – including a fastbreak dunk by Jones – and after Jones got loose inside for another easy basket G-Prep led 42-28 after three.
Watson picked up his fourth foul early in the fourth quarter and headed to the bench.
When he came back a few moments later, he immediately scored on a windmill dunk coming off the baseline and made the free throw for a three-point play. He then grabbed a steal and went the distance for a two-handed slam. The Gonzaga University commit scored G-Prep’s last nine points of the game – on three dunks and a layup.
“I got a little mad at the end,” Watson said of collecting his fourth foul. “I started working a little harder and it got a little easier.”
Around the tourney
Richland 84, Ferris 79: Cole Northrop scored 28 points and the MCC top-seeded Bombers (22-0) came back from a halftime deficit to beat the visiting GSL No. 2 seed Saxons (18-3) in a district semifinal game.
Mike Ervin led Ferris with 23 points. No. 6-rated Ferris hosts No. 10 Lewis and Clark in a loser-out game on Tuesday.
Lewis and Clark 78, Pasco 24: Naje Smith scored 18 points, Griffin Effenberger added 17 and the Tigers (14-8) routed the visiting Bulldogs (3-20) in a loser-out game.
Walla Walla 69, University 60: The Blue Devils (14-8) eliminated the Titans (11-12) in a loser-out game. Walla Walla faces Chiawana in a loser-out game on Tuesday.