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Freeman's Jackson Clark drives towards the basket while being defended by Cole Langstraat of Lynden Christian during the Class 1A state title game at the Yakima Valley SunDome in Yakima, Wash. on Saturday, March 3, 2018. ((JAKE PARRISH/Yakima Herald-Republic))

Freeman Scotties get revenge, but fall short in title game

Timing can be everything.

Just ask a comedian. Or a chef. Or a musician.

Or Marty Jessett.

Under Jessett’s direction, the Freeman Scotties are one of the most successful basketball teams in the state at any level. Especially at the Class 1A level.

Over the past three seasons, the Scotties have won 70 of 77 games. Do the math. To get to 70 wins a team would have to average better than 23 wins per year, and high school teams rarely play more than 26 or 27 games in a year. This year’s Freeman team played just 25.

The 2017-18 Freeman squad, with eight seniors, had both the most successful season (24-1) in school history and, with those 70 wins, those eight seniors are the most successful senior class in school history.

“I couldn’t have asked for more from our kids,” Jessett said. “It’s been kind of a coach’s dream to be able to coach a group of kids like this.”

Around Freeman, however, there isn’t yet the kind of joyous reverie surrounding this incredible run of basketball success that you would normally expect.

Because each of those three seasons have had an abrupt, jarring end.

Most of this senior class spent their freshman season on the Freeman junior varsity, but several made their way to the varsity by the end of the season and helped the Scotties get to within a game of reaching the state tournament, losing to Riverside in a loser-out, winner-to-state game.

At the end of the 2015-16 season, as sophomores, Freeman surprised itself by making a dramatic run to the State Class 1A championship game for the first time in school history. Once there, however, the Scotties ran into a buzzsaw from King’s, losing 80-39.

A year later, the team marched right back to the championship game, but this time they lost to the Yakima SunDome’s home team, the Zillah Leopards 69-53.

“We knew we were going to have to get stronger if we were going to beat a team like Zillah, and the kids did everything we asked them to do,” Jessett said of his team’s summer.

Undefeated heading into last week’s state championship game, the Scotties had a tournament laid out for them like a redemption tour.

They beat King’s in the quarterfinals, 58-51. They beat Zillah in the semifinals, 76-67.

“That’s what we wanted – we wanted to play those teams,” Jessett said. “We thought it was poetic justice.”

The state finals was a dramatic battle between the state’s top two teams: No. 1-ranked Lynden Christian and No. 2 Freeman.

The Lyncs got off to a fast start, taking a 26-12 lead in the first half. But the Scotties battled back, cutting that deficit to 10 points, 28-18.

And then the roof fell in.

Lynden Christian hit five straight 3-pointers to take a 45-18 lead and essentially put the game away.

“If you look at the score sheet, this game was a lot closer than the score would indicate,” Jessett said. “All of the numbers are really close. They just shot the ball way better.”

Lynden Christian shot better than 70 percent from the field in the second half. .

Having the game snatched away for a third time hurts, but they will heal, the coach insisted.

“These kids know what real hurt is, and they will get better,” he said.

These players, he said, have put the school and the community on their collective shoulders and helped everyone heal.

“I know I’m better because of these kids,” he said.

Jessett likes the legacy this group of players leaves behind for the next group of Scotties coming up behind them.

“They’ve done everything except for the titles,” he said. “They dominated our league – winning three league championships – and that’s not easy to do. But if you look at the numbers, it’s even more impressive than that. They have been 48-1 in our league. They were upset by Medical Lake in their first game of the season as sophomores. They went 48-0 after that.

“They’ve done all the offseason preparation we asked them to do. And there’s been no drama from them for three seasons. I could take them anywhere and trust every single one of them to be a great ambassador for Freeman High School.

“A lot of parents have raised their kids right.”