What a difference a day makes.
Mt. Spokane turned a frustrating performance in Friday’s district title game loss into a dominant one on Saturday in the second-place game at the Toyota Center in Kennewick.
Already owning a big lead, the Wildcats scored the first 20 points of the third quarter and ran away from Kennewick 88-41 to secure a bid to the state tournament and – depending on the final RPI ratings – perhaps rescue a direct pass through regionals to the Tacoma Dome as one of the top eight seeds..
“It’s so important to get to the Dome. In terms of checking our RPI, I think we’re in,” Wagenblast said. “That was the goal – giving yourself a chance. And these guys, I’m so proud of them they did that.”
Mt. Spokane (19-4) was led by Kobe Simpson off the bench with 21 points as the Wildcats backups got extensive playing time in the second half. JoJo Anderson led the starters with 15 and Greater Spokane League MVP Tyson Degenhart added 11 points with 11 rebounds.
The Wildcats shot 55.4% and made 17 of 25 from the line.
“Both days we played really hard, and the difference today was we were able to turn our defensive stops into layins,” Mt. Spokane coach David Wagenblast said. “At the other end, we were able to get some confidence and get it going on offense. We had a really good mindset today and I was really proud of the kids just to come out and not let yesterday affect us at all.”
Ayoni Benavidez led Kennewick (15-8) with 12 points.
“Yesterday really motivated us to win this game and get to state,” Degenhart said. “None of us wanted to have our season end in the Tri-Cities, so we just came out with a lot of energy and it ended up paying off with a 40-plus point win.”
It was the second time in little over a week that Mt. Spokane handled Kennewick. The Wildcats topped the Lions 80-54 on Feb. 14 in a semifinal showdown. Degenhart had 21 points in that contest, while Benavidez had 22.
Kennewick picked up four fouls early, including a pair of charges against Benavidez as Mt. Spokane got out to a 6-2 lead. Degenhart’s first bucket was a layup with three Lions draped over him, and his 3-pointer a few minutes later made it 13-4.
Kennewick’s Braxton Collier hit a long 3 just before the horn and Mt. Spokane led 22-14 after one.
Degenhart was doubled down low and kicked it out to Mitch Stengle for a 3 that pushed the lead to double digits early in the second. A 13-2 run by the Wildcats made it 35-16 midway through the frame.
At the start of the third, JoJo Anderson fed Degenhart for an alley-oop on a scripted play. The Wildcats scored the first 20 points of the quarter and built a 62-23 lead.
“Right away with the alley-oop, it got us going again in the third,” Wagenblast said. “We stuck with the gameplan defensively. Then we were able to run, and that’s when we were able to get the separation.”
“In the locker room we needed to come up with energy and show what we’re about,” Degenhart said. “And I think that we did that perfectly. We played with a lot of energy, played with a lot of heart. And I hope the crowd noticed that.”
Simpson hit two of his four 3-pointers in the fourth and juniors Kinkade and Keagan McMurray combined for 13 points in the frame.