Cameron Cranston didn’t need a game-winning 3-pointer against the Bellarmine Prep boys basketball team this time.
“It was nice not to,” Union coach Blake Conley said.
Although, it looked like he might need one for a while, until Bellarmine’s Joey Bodoia fouled out on an offensive foul with less than three minutes remaining and second-ranked Union pulled away for a 63-53 victory on Saturday at Mount Tahoma.
The win secures Union of the top seed into the 4A state tournament – the Titans ended the regular season No. 1 in the WIAA’s 4A RPI rankings – and a trip to the semifinals of 4A West Central/Southwest bidistrict tournament. The top eight RPI-ranked teams to qualify for state are guaranteed a spot in the Tacoma Dome.
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So that’s now twice in two years that Union has punched its ticket to the Tacoma Dome with a win over Bellarmine Prep.
Cranston’s game-winning 3-pointer last year ended that Malachi Flynn-led Bellarmine season in the regional round of the 4A state tournament. And now the 6-foot-6 Cranston, after scoring a game-high 21 points on Saturday, is leading Union to state for the third consecutive year – the best three-year stretch of basketball the school’s had.
“It’s one of his legacies,” Conley said. “He’s been such a good leader. He’s evolved his game every year since being on varsity as a freshman.”
But his best shot ever?
That would be the one last year against Bellarmine.
“Dude, No. 1 easy,” Cranson said. “Easy No. 1.
“But getting this win feels just as good.”
An emotional Bellarmine team came out as the aggressor in this one. The Lions led 14-10 after the first quarter and held Cranston scoreless until the lefty used an array of moves around the basket to score 11 second-quarter points.
“He’s very crafty,” Bellarmine coach Bernie Salazar said. “Good player.”
Bellarmine’s Christian Moore kept the Lions in the game. He finished with 18 points and 18 rebounds.
But Conley said Union came in trying to take Bodoia out of the game. And the Titans did, holding the Lion’s senior guard to six points when he ended the regular season averaging 19.4.
Conley asked Austin Lewis to play expanded minute and keep Bodoia from filling the box score.
“We know they have other players but Joey is such a good player that we really wanted to focus on him,” Conley said. “And we did a good job of that. Lewis hasn’t played a ton, but he did an awesome job.”
Union extended its lead to 43-30 in the third quarter, but Bellarmine went on a 16-6 run – sparked Jaylen Scott and Charles Elzie hitting each hitting a 3-pointer.
But the Lions lost their momentum when Bodoia, after stealing a pass, was called for a charge underneath Bellarmine’s basketball when he drove coast-to-coast with 2:56 remaining. The Lions bench erupted, arguing it should have been a blocking foul to give Bodoia two free throws with Union up 54-49.
“We made a nice run there at the end,” Salazar said. “But we didn’t defend well enough.”
Bellarmine Prep, which entered having won nine of its past 10 games to secure the 4A SPSL’s No. 2 seed, gets one more shot at reaching the state tournament. It plays Camas in a winner-to-state, loser-out game at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday at Mount Tahoma.
Curtis 59, Enumclaw 47: When this season started, most of the Vikings scoring had to come from John Moore and Sindou Diallo.
Now? Curtis has a plethora of options. It had four players score at least eight points, led by Moore’s 18 and Nate Ward’s 14 in a win over the Hornets on Saturday.
The Vikings secured a second consecutive trip to the Tacoma Dome with the win. It is currently ranked No. 8 in the WIAA’s RPI rankings.
“It’s always good to go to the Tacoma Dome – it’s really fun,” Moore said. “That was our goal for the season was to get there and I’m glad I get to do it for the second time now.”
And it gets to advance to the district semifinals to Face Federal Way at 6 p.m. Thursday at Mount Tahoma. Federal Way beat Curtis for the district title last year.
Peter Erickson led Enumclaw with 17 points and Kaden Anderson scored 14. The Hornets head to a winner-to-state, loser-out game against Auburn at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Rogers.
Federal Way 88, Kentridge 72: Malcolm Cola played like the 4A North Puget Sound League Olympic division MVP he is.
Cola had 32 points and 15 rebounds to secure the Eagles’ third consecutive trip to the Tacoma Dome, where they hope to begin their quest for their third consecutive 4A state title – which no team has ever done in the WIAA’s largest classification.
Federal Way is ranked fourth in the WIAA’s RPI rankings.
The Eagles used a big fourth quarter to pull away, outscoring the Chargers 25-16 in the final period as Marcus Stephens scored 18 points and Etan Collins added 15. The Eagles advance to the district semifinals to face Curtis at 6 p.m. Thursday at Mount Tahoma.
Markel Banks led Kentridge with 28 points and AJ Chappell scored 25. The Chargers head to a winner-to-state, loser-out game at 7:45 p.m. Wednesday at Rogers.
Life Christian 68, Toutle Lake 48: Anthony Kunitsa scored 20 points as the Eagles continued their strong run through districts and clinched their third consecutive trip to Spokane Arena for the 2B state tournament.
“Definitely coming out with energy coming out in the first quarter was good for us,” coach Mark Lovelady said. “We built a good lead in that fourth quarter.”
Luke Lovelady had 12 points, 18 rebound, nine blocks and six assists.
Life Christian (22-1) will play next in the district semifinal game against Adna at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Tumwater.
Tacoma Baptist 61, Puget Sound Adventist 47: In a game that secured them the sixth seed into the 1B tridistrict tournament, the Crusaders beat the Sharks behind a 30-point performance by PJ Talen.
"The thing that makes PJ so difficult for opposing teams is that he does all three things offensively that make a person difficult to guard: he can shoot the 3, he can pull up midrange and he can get to the rim,” said Tacoma Baptist coach Rich Hamlin. “When he can do all of those things, he is difficult to guard.”
Talen was all over the court and fouls couldn’t even stop his dominant performance.
“He had 4 threes, he had some acrobatic drives to the rim, he was just difficult to guard,” said Hamlin.
Tacoma Baptist opens the tridistrict tournament against Tulalip Heritage at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Tacoma Baptist.
Staff writer Chase Hutchinson contributed to this report
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677