High School Sports

River Ridge boys basketball wins Class 2A third-place state tournament game

Perhaps not at this moment, but soon and in years to come, Thayer Murphy, Jason Kananin and the rest of the River Ridge Hawks will look back on the season and view it as successful.

The disappointment of not reaching the Class 2A boys basketball state championship game Saturday was still evident in some players, but ending the season with a victory and bringing home the third-place trophy helped ease the pain.

The Hawks did it with a 72-50 win over the Squalicum Storm in the third-place game, the program’s first trophy at state since 2009. It’s River Ridge’s third trophy in boys basketball; the 2007 and ’09 teams also placed third in Class 2A.

Murphy and Kananin, two of the team’s five seniors, said winning this game was one of many accomplishments that made their senior seasons memorable.

“Not everybody gets a chance to play in this (third-place) game,” Kananin said.

“I’ll probably never forget this season, this basketball team,” said Murphy, who finished with a game-high 18 points. “I’m proud of this team for making it this far. We were able to accomplish many of our goals.”

Those goals included a 2A South Puget Sound League title and West Central District 2/3 title.

The shooting struggles that plagued the Hawks in Friday’s 42-35 semifinal loss to state runner-up Anacortes vanished by the time the late-morning game tipped off at the Yakima Valley SunDome.

The Hawks made four of their first five shots and were a perfect 5 for 5 on 3-pointers early. By the time the scoreboard read 3 minutes, 42 seconds remaining in the second quarter, River Ridge had a 30-9 lead.

“That’s how we’re used to playing,” Murphy, said.

“Where was this yesterday?” Hawks coach John Barbee asked while smiling.

Murphy and Kananin (16 points) were doing the most damage as the seniors combined to shoot 9 for 14 from 3-point range, and were two of three Hawks to reach double figures in scoring.

Hawks junior LaBrandon Price had 10 points and six rebounds with senior Tommy Hunkin-Clark grabbing 10 rebounds and senior Alfonso Vela scoring eight points on 4 for 5 shooting.

But Squalicum, out of the tough-and-rugged 3A/2A/1A Northwest Conference, was led by the tournament’s leading scorer, Damek Mitchell, who scored 16 points in the game and averaged 19.3 for the tournament.

Trailing by as many as 24, the Storm rallied to trail 51-43 heading into the final quarter, but got no closer. River Ridge started the fourth on a 10-2 scoring run and five consecutive points by Murphy made the lead more comfortable at 16 with 4:19 to play.

Finishing his third year as coach at River Ridge, Barbee said he feels his program is on the right track. But sustaining annual trips to Yakima is the next goal.

“That’s the biggest thing,” Barbee said, “not just once in a while, but every year knocking on the state door. I couldn’t have asked for a better group to get here (this year).”