Mike Cocke’ took all his players’ practice jerseys and stuffed them in a trash bag.
He’s done this each year after Foss’ final practice before a state regional playoff game and he’s never been able to give them back.
Foss had four players score in double figures — led by Roberto Gittens’ 20 points — as the top-ranked Falcons commanded the game in every fashion possible en route to an 82-45 victory over Woodland on Saturday at Battle Ground High School.
“When you take the practice jersey before the loser-out game, it tells them that this is serious,” Cocke’ said. “This is real. I want the guys to know that it’s win or go home.”
The Falcons left little doubt that it was going to be win-and-go-to-Yakima.
Woodland took a 6-2 lead to start the game. Then the Falcons went on a blistering 30-2 run.
Their press forced 11 turnovers in that stretch. Woodland went almost a full quarter without scoring. Gittens about destroyed the rim on a fast-break tomahawk dunk and then got hot from behind the arc, hitting a pair of 3-pointers in the span of five possessions.
Gittens really wanted his practice jersey back.
“Ever since I’ve been at Foss, I’ve never got my practice jersey back,” Gittens said. “Yesterday (at practice) I was just trying not to get emotional about it. I knew it could be over today. That’s why I came out so intense. I played my heart out.”
Last year, Foss’ season ended in an overtime loss to Kennedy Catholic in a district winner-to-state game. Before that, it had lost to Bellevue, Stanwood, Mountlake Terrace, Kamiakin and Chief Sealth in state regional games since 2010 without a regional victory since the WIAA went away with the 16-team, double-elimination format.
Though that was all as a Class 3A team. Now Foss is 2A and instead of clinching a trip to the Tacoma Dome, will head to the Yakima SunDome to play a first-round game against Mark Morris at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday.
Cocke’ is looking forward to the road trip.
“The thing is, we’ve played in the Tacoma Dome a few times,” Cocke’ said. “You get on the bus and you drive 10 minutes. I drive by it every day when I go to and from Foss. But to drive over to Yakima, it’s going to feel like the state championships. That is going to be a great experience for these kids.”
He had planned to travel there last year, when he heard Foss was about to drop to 2A based on its school enrollment.
“I told myself I was going to go to the SunDome, and I never made it,” Cocke’ said. “As much as this is going to be a great experience for them (the players), I’m excited for my staff and my family and getting to go over there.”
Not that Foss shouldn’t have already had its fate to Yakima sealed. But the Falcons, ranked No. 1 in the The News Tribune’s 2A rankings, are considered the No. 20 team in the RPI rankings. The top eight were secured spots in Yakima.
Donald Scott had 18 points, Demetrius Crosby scored 13 and Tre Tyson added 12 as Foss led 45-18 at halftime. Woodland’s Tanner Sixberry scored 25 points and 6-foot-11 center Bryce Mulder was negated by Foss’ full-court press, scoring four points.
“It was extremely fun,” said Tyson, who made four 3-pointers. “We were getting in the open court, shooting 3s, pretty much doing what we wanted to do offensively and we played hard defensively.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677
NO. 1 FOSS
F: Damani Kelly 7, Demetrius Crosby 13, Micah Pollard 8, Tre Tyson 12, Isaiah Jackson 2, Roberto Gittens 20, Rakim Nelson 2, Donald Scott 18.
W: Mulder 4, Pascua 2, Rice 3, Dinehart 8, Flanagan 2, Sixberry 25, Bishop 2.