Lincoln High School boys basketball coach Aubrey Shelton took a few more glances at the clipboard in the locker room and had to wonder why.
Why were two Class 3A top-five programs meeting this early in the playoffs?
And how did Bellevue even drop a game up to this point?
Surviving a traffic snarl, getting lost trying to find Mount Tahoma High School – and then a lengthy first-quarter delay – the third-ranked Wolverines finally put away No. 4 Lincoln, 60-55, in a regional-round game Friday night.
Bellevue (22-3) moves on to the state tournament next week at the Tacoma Dome. Lincoln (22-4), the West Central District champion, saw its season end.
“They are probably the second-best team in the state,” Shelton said. “It is unfortunate. We are used to the fact we win districts and then get one of the best teams in the state.”
All the way around, this game was a tad weird.
And it started with 2:50 to go in the first quarter, when a fire alarm went off in the gymnasium that caused a complete evacuation of a packed house and delayed the game for 41 minutes.
Yet, the teams battled to a 28-28 tie at halftime.
But after that, Bellevue really applied the pressure. The Wolverines started the second half on a 10-2 run over the first 3:24, capped by Sharif Khan’s 3-pointer, to grab a 38-30 lead.
“We really stressed going into the game that we wanted to run when we had opportunities, and then we wanted to bring the ball out when there was nothing there,” Bellevue coach Chris O’Connor said. “For 90 percent of the game, we did a great job of recognizing when to do that.”
The lead enabled the Wolverines to put Lincoln in the grinder by taking extended possessions and really making the Abes work on defense.
“They handled our pressure. When we were down and trying to run and jump them, they were breaking it,” Shelton said. “You’ve got to make shots to beat a good team like that.”
A few times in the fourth quarter, Lincoln threatened to turn it into a one-possession nail-biter. The last was on Trevion Brown’s corner 3-pointer that cut the Abes’ deficit to 56-52 with 40 seconds left.
But Bellevue held on from the free throw line, going 8 of 10 in the final 45 seconds.
“It should have been a (state) semifinal game,” O’Connor said. “That is the way it goes, I guess.”
The loss marked the final high school game for Abes’ star Ahmaad Rorie. He finished with 15 points.
“You win some, you lose some – and we lost,” said Rorie, who spent eight months at Montverde Academy in Florida before coming back to Lincoln after the winter holiday. “I do wish the team the best of luck, and thanks to all of them for letting me come back and play.”
3A GIRLS REGIONAL
Lincoln 61, Mountlake Terrace 59: Coming down the hallway to the girls locker room at Mount Tahoma High, Abes coach Jamila Jones had his son, Jasiah, in one hand.
“Punched our ticket,” Jones jubilantly yelled.
Indeed the Abes (20-5) did – by the skin of their teeth.
Kayla McLean made one of two free throws for Lincoln with three seconds to go, and Maddy Kristianson’s 3-point game-winning heave from the right side for the No. 7 Hawks (18-6) hit the glass and rimmed out.
Lincoln returns to the state tournament for the first time since 2005-06.
“They’ve been battle-tested a little bit up north,” Jones said. “But we had a really good week of practice. We weathered the storm.”
The Abes led 54-46 with 2:14 remaining but did not score another field goal, instead grinding out the victory from the free throw line (7 of 12).
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442