The St. George’s Dragons have become accustomed to big games at the state tournament, but on Friday night, one of the most successful programs in 2B history got the best of them.
The second-seeded Dragons had multiple chances to take the lead in the final two minutes, but each time the Bears’ defense stifled them. Senior Dan Rigsby’s double-clutch 3-point attempt rimmed off in the final seconds, and Brewster held on for a 60-57 victory.
It sends the fourth-seeded Bears to their first state championship game since it returned to the 2B classification. It won 1A state titles in 2003, 2004 and 2007 but hasn’t won a 2B title since 1985. St. George’s lost to Kittitas in the last two state title games.
Brewster (24-3) will play Life Christian in the championship game at 3 p.m. Saturday at the Spokane Arena.
On Friday, St. George’s (21-5) trailed by as many as nine but was in position late to take the lead or tie on three straight possessions late.
Trailing 58-57 with 15 seconds left, Rigsby tried to draw a foul but his shot rimmed short. With 13.6 seconds left, Brewster junior Cade Gebbers missed the front end of a 1-and-1 but got his own long rebound.
He went back to the line with 8.8 seconds left and again missed – but St. George’s was called for a lane violation, so Gebbers got another try.
On the third go, he made both, giving the Bears a 60-57 lead before Rigsby’s final shot missed.
“You gotta block out,” St. George’s coach Ryan Peplinski said of the final sequence. “Other than that I thought we played a great game. The kids showed a lot of heart. (The Bears are) really good and I thought we played well enough to win.”
Except, he said, for the rebounding, where the Bears had a 35-26 advantage. Both teams shot just a shade better than 44%.
Bears senior Conner Ashworth proved difficult for the Dragons inside. He made 8 of 9 shots for a team-high 19 points.
After the Bears took a 21-16 lead through the first quarter, the Dragons hit their stride in the second. Aidan Kelly hit a pair of free throws, giving St. George’s a 25-23 lead that the Dragons extended to 38-33 at halftime.
But after the half, the Bears used a 9-2 run to storm back ahead. The Dragons never led again. Junior Nick Watkins scored a game-high 23 points on 9-of-21 shooting.
St. George’s faces Willapa Valley in the third-place game at 1 p.m. Saturday.
Life Christian 65, Willapa Valley 42: Junior Omari Maulana and sophomore Bradley Swillie combined to score 30 points for the fifth-seeded Eagles, who reached the State 2B championship game for the first time.
LCA led 21-6 after the first quarter and 37-15 at half, burying the 10th-seeded Vikings (21-8). A night after scoring a season-high 30 in the quarterfinals, Willapa Valley junior Logan Walker was held to eight points on 2-of-8 shooting.
The Eagles hit 27 of 67 field-goal attempts and had a 54-30 advantage in rebounds. They won despite a 3-for-15 night at the free-throw line.
The Eagles are now 23-3, with two losses coming to 3A schools and the other by forfeit.