Coach Mike Cocke’ and the Foss High School boys basketball team traveled Tuesday to Yakima for their first Class 2A state tournament appearance Wednesday.
But don’t expect them to spend much time seeing sights.
“We’ve been on lockdown,” Foss senior Roberto Gittens said. “(Coach) put us to bed early and took phones. We came out here to win a championship, so we’re not playing around.”
The top-ranked Falcons (21-5) — who made all 13 of their previous state tournament trips as a 4A team — won their only state title in 2000.
“I just want to bring one back to Tacoma,” senior Donald Scott said.
Despite entering the tournament as the No. 13 seed — three out-of-state losses significantly lowered Foss’ RPI ranking early on — the Falcons are on pace to do just that.
Foss hit its rhythm early on in the second half, and gradually pulled away from sixth-ranked Mark Morris, 72-55, at the Yakima Valley SunDome to advance to the 2A state quarterfinals.
“We did what we wanted to do,” Gittens said.
This is the first time any Foss player has been in a state tournament environment. The Falcons last qualified in 2009, when they took sixth in 4A.
Foss lost in the regional round the past five seasons.
The curtain that divides the boys and girls courts, the raised floor, and of course the SunDome are all new to the Falcons.
“My first shot, I airballed,” Gittens said. “I was like, ‘It’s a little weird playing here.’ … We had to get used to the shots we were taking. I think that’s what it was.”
But, by the second half, Foss looked like a team that hasn’t lost a game in its classification this season.
“I knew we’d be excited to play,” Cocke’ said. “I feel like in the first half there were a lot of nerves. The ball was fumbling around, a couple of missed layups and different things.
“In the second half I feel like we got in our groove we’re used to playing in.”
Mark Morris trailed Foss by only four points when Gittens, a Boise State commit, pulled up for a turnaround jumper with five minutes, 35 seconds to go in the third quarter.
From there, Foss went on a 12-2 run the Monarchs never recovered from.
Gittens scored 10 of his 14 points — including a breakaway dunk in the fourth as part of a 10-3 Falcons run — in the second half, and added five assists.
“He’s a heck of a player,” Cocke’ said. “This is his first time on this stage, so I expected there to be a little bit of a learning curve.”
Scott paced the Falcons throughout, finishing with 24 points and 12 rebounds. Cocke’ said having a player like Scott — who supplements Gittens so well — is a luxury as a coach.
“He got going, and he’s a good player, and he helps us around the paint,” Cocke’ said. “He’s just long and makes shots.”
Factor in another 16 points from junior Demetrius Crosby and eight from sophomore Micah Pollard, and the Falcons look like a team that could still be playing Saturday night.
Foss plays seventh-ranked Pullman (20-5) at 12:15 p.m. Thursday in the quarterfinals.
“We’ll go back and batten down the hatches at the hotel and figure out a way to get ready to play the next opponent,” Cocke’ said.
“They have beat some good teams. We know our road — with the potential next two or three opponents, who they could be — is difficult. But, if we’re going to win, we have to go beat those teams.”
Three more to go.