YAKIMA – The encouraging words from coach Rick Tripp were something the White River Hornets have heard many times before – heart, courage and the will to win – but it meant something more as the Hornets prepared for the overtime session in its 2A state semifinal game against Lindbergh.
Just like they had Thursday night in their 2A state quarterfinal win over Ellensburg, White River rallied in the fourth quarter and won it in overtime, gutting out a 43-40 win in Friday’s semifinal. The victory sends them into today’s 3 p.m. state title game where they’ll face Lynden.
“It’s surreal right now,” White River guard Alex Sayler said. “It’s crazy. From Day 1, this was our goal. We’re getting there now one more game.”
This will be White River’s first trip to the state title game since 1995 when the program finished runner-up to Franklin, 70-69, in Class 3A.
With Lindbergh’s extended zone causing White River problems shooting from outside (2-of-14 3-pointers in the first half), the Hornets were reserved to more high-percentage shots inside in the second half. Only three 3-pointers were attempted in the third and fourth quarters.
“We settled for a lot of 3s early and weren’t getting the ball inside,” Tripp said. “We really tired to emphasize that with the kids at halftime and they listened, it looks like.”
Trailing by two at 36-34, Sayler’s up-and-under layup with 17.1 second left was the game-tying basket and sent the game into overtime.
Once in the four-minute extra session, Billy Kiel’s runner in the lane gave the Hornets the lead for good at 38-37 on their first possession. Sayler had four of his team-best 12 points in overtime, including two free throws with 23 seconds left that gave White River a four-point lead at 42-38.
White River also held Lindbergh star guard Jimmy Keum in check. After scoring 33 points in Thursday’s 56-51 upset win over Clover Park, Keum finished with 12 points on 4-of-24 shooting, including 1-of-13 from long distance.