When the River Ridge Hawks gathered their belongings on the bench and headed toward their Yakima Valley SunDome locker room, players’ eyes were stuck on the scoreboard and some couldn’t bear to look.
Shock? Disbelief? Disappointment? All of the above.
In the end, a big early-game deficit, shooting struggles and steep mountain to climb all game long were too much in a 42-35 loss to Anacortes during Friday’s 2A boys state semifinal.
The Seahawks return to the state championship game for the second straight year to face Clarkston (25-1), one of the tournament favorites, for Saturday’s 9 p.m. state title game.
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The loss means the Hawks (21-6) won’t play for a state title, but the school will still bring home hardware; they’ll play Squalicum, which fell to Clarkston, 73-51, in Friday’s other semifinal, at 11:15 a.m. Saturday in the third/fifth-place game. It’ll be the Hawks’ first state trophy since finishing third at the 2A tournament in 2009.
The focus on Saturday, said junior LaBrandon Price, is “to get the best (finish) we can right now.”
The struggles were started as soon as the 3:50 p.m. tip-off. Anacortes led 13-0 before the Hawks got on the scoreboard with 1:58 to play in the first quarter, getting buckets inside, outside and in transition.
While most teams dominate a much smaller River Ridge team in points in the paint —and Anacortes did — they also beat the Hawks at their own game: 3-point shooting. The Seahawks hit five first-half 3s for a 31-12 halftime lead.
At one point, the Hawks shot 11 percent from the field and had more turnovers and fouls committed than points.
Was the deficit too much to overcome in the final 16 minutes?
“Nineteen (points) is a lot,” River Ridge coach John Barbee said.
A lot, yes, but not impossible.
The Seahawks’ 2-3 extended zone defense forced River Ridge outside all game. After Thursday’s 7-of-26 performance from 3-point range, the Hawks hit 3 of 21 on Friday (13 of 49 overall).
River Ridge chipped away with junior point guard Kobe Key on the bench with foul trouble. He picked up his fourth foul with 5:28 to play in the third, forcing other players out of position. Price (team-high eight points, six rebounds) carried much of the point-guard duties when Key was out; when Key returned with 5:16 remaining in the game, the Hawks trailed, 35-26. A steal and layin by Key cut it to 38-33 before the Hawks began fouling with 38 seconds left.
With the exception of four late-game free throws in the final minute when the Hawks began fouling out of necessity, they limited Anacortes to seven second-half points.
Barbee said his team regained its defensive comfort level in the second half, but by then, the lack of made shots caught up to them.
“That’s the big thing — you have to make some shots,” Barbee said. “Maybe with another quarter, we would’ve been all right.
“This game absolutely doesn’t define us. We’re hurting emotionally right now, but we have nothing to hang our heads about. We’re in elite company here.”