Down 51-50 to visiting Yelm with 1.5 seconds left on the clock, the first option on the baseline inbounds play for Gig Harbor was to look for sophomore forward Zach Toglia on a lob pass in the middle of the key.
But the Tornados were wise to the Tides’ preferred option and took it away. Luckily for Gig Harbor, senior guard Kaden Garnaas was option No. 2.
Garnaas rounded a screen from teammate Nathan Brekke at the top of the key and received the inbounds pass near the far-right corner of the court, behind the 3-point line. Fading away, he launched the shot as the clock expired and the buzzer sounded.
Nothing but net.
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“You always dream of hitting those game winners in high school,” Garnaas said. “Senior year, it was just a great moment.”
Garnaas had just delivered the 53-51 win for the Tides, and immediately afterward, extended his arms open wide. For a brief moment, he seemed to almost be in disbelief.
“Once I saw it go down and in, I knew that was it,” he said. “I knew it was in. It was a great feeling.”
And naturally, there were no hard feelings from Toglia, who was the primary option on the play, if it had be open.
“I was sitting right underneath the basket,” Toglia said. “At first, I couldn’t tell if it was in. And then it swishes in and I just start going crazy. That’s the most excited I’ve been in a long time. I had 100 percent confidence (in Garnaas). He’s one of our best shooters, if not the best shooter on our team.”
Gig Harbor (4-8 overall, 2-4 South Sound Conference 3A) has now won three in a row. Beating Yelm (1-11, 0-6) was crucial for the team getting off on the right foot in league play after the holiday break.
“We’ve lost a couple close ones,” said Gig Harbor coach Billy Landram. “We’re really young. We’ve got a few kids out. The kids who are playing are really battling and fighting. It’s kind of a learning experience with our youth. But Kaden and Ben (Hollenbeck) have done a good job being leaders. Hopefully, we can keep this thing rolling.”
Freshman Asher Raquiza led Gig Harbor with 12 points. Joe Owens scored nine for the Tides. Garnaas and Nathan Brekke added six apiece, Hollenbeck chipped in four and Luke Finnigan scored two. Gig Harbor has been competitive in almost every game, despite the 2-4 record in league.
“The record may not show it but I honestly feel like we’re one of the best teams in the league,” Toglia said. “We’ve just been on the wrong end of the stick of some of the games. I feel like we could bounce back and go undefeated the rest of the season if we just buckle down and play as a team.”
A loss to a Yelm squad with no league wins would have been tough on the team’s morale. But now, maybe Garnaas’ buzzer-beater will serve a catalyst for a second-half turnaround for the Tides.
“It’s kind of like a reboot for us,” Garnaas said. “We’re taking it one game at a time. So to get this win kind of propels us forward to the next one. Peninsula, Timberline, Shelton. Just getting this feeling of confidence, getting the win really just helps us as a team, just knowing that feeling.”
Garnaas, especially, will enjoy that feeling for at least a few more days.
YELM 13 16 14 8--51
GIG HARBOR 15 16 14 8--53