In the quiet hallway outside Federal Way High School’s locker room, boys basketball coach Jerome Collins somberly explained what cost the Eagles their shot at going for state history.
Federal Way had the ball with 5.7 seconds remaining and trailing by two points but was called for a technical foul because six players were on the court.
“I guess it was just loud,” Collins said. “Miscommunication.”
What a mind-blowing way to end that run.
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In what Richland coach Earl Streufert said was one of the best wins in school history, Cole Northrop hit two technical free throws, and the No. 8 Bombers also got possession of the ball. They ran out the clock to stun two-time defending 4A state champion and fourth-ranked Federal Way, 61-57, in the 4A state quarterfinals on Friday in the Tacoma Dome.
The Eagles were hoping to become the first school in WIAA history to win three consecutive 4A state tiles.
Junior forward Etan Collins realized he was one of those six players and he tried to race to the bench before the play began. The officials briefly met and called a technical foul.
“I was wondering if they were going to discuss it all night or call it,” Streufert said. “I’m glad they got it right.”
The sequence leading up to the whistle was as thrilling as most of the rest of this game.
Federal Way point guard Marcus Stephens — the only player to start on each of the Eagles’ past two state championship teams — drew two defenders and hit Jaden McDaniels on the wing for an open 3-pointer with the game tied 57-57 and 38 seconds to play.
McDaniels’ shot hit off the back of the rim, and Richland secured the rebound.
Streufert called time out to set up the Bombers’ base offense. He said he knew with Federal Way’s relentless pressure defense, his team could get the Eagles to gamble and free a layup opportunity.
Cody Sanderson caught a pass on the wing and drove baseline for the go-ahead layup.
“(The defender) was overplaying me, and I think they thought they were going to have the help (defense) and I was going to pass it out,” Sanderson said. “But they gave me an easy bucket and it felt great. It’s awesome.
“I’m excited. I didn’t think we would even go this far.”
The Bombers bombed away from the 3-point line. They took more than twice as many 3-pointers (22) as Federal Way (nine) and made seven, including Garrett Streufert’s three.
And Richland had 7-foot-3 center Riley Sorn controlling the paint.
Yes, a 7-foot-3 high schooler. Sorn almost had a triple-double, finishing with a game-high 16 points with 10 rebounds and eight blocks.
But Federal Way attacked him from the start with 4A NPSL Olympic MVP Malcolm Cola, a 6-foot-7 senior forward. Sorn blocked his first two shots.
“That was a bad idea,” Streufert said. “If I was (Jerome Collins) I would attack inside, too, and see if the guy can stop it. But Riley was very patient most of the night. I tell you this, when he does that, those guys swell up and they play a little tougher because they know they got the rim protected.”
Cola stuck with it, drop-stepping baseline on his next post up for a two-handed dunk.
But Sorn wasn’t done. He slipped a screen in the fourth quarter and thundered into the lane for a two-handed dunk to give Richland a 55-51 lead with about two minutes to go. Since the state tournament began, Sorn has 24 blocks in three games.
“He’s 7-3,” Collins chuckled. “And in high school you just don’t go against that.”
The Bombers took their largest lead, 50-42, near the end of the third when Garrett Streufert hit a 3-pointer.
“They are a good ball club,” Collins said. “I just didn’t like our execution defensively. We gave up too many uncontested 3s. Too many.”
Collins reflected on all that Federal Way accomplished the past three years: the back-to-back state titles, continuing its winning ways through 20 games this season and setting a 4A record with 63 consecutive victories.
“It’s odd. It’s a different feeling being on the other side of this,” Collins said. “But it’s a part of athletics. It’s a part of sports. I’m proud of my guys for fighting hard and giving their best shot. It just didn’t fall our way today.
Federal Way heads to the consolation bracket to face Kennedy Catholic at 9 a.m. Friday.
“It hurts,” Collins said. “I’m hurting for Marcus as well. He’s been a part of our program and part of all this success. Our guys know what it’s like to be on the winning side. … But we still have basketball to play. Life goes on and we just didn’t get the breaks to fall our way.”
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677