WALLA WALLA - The Walla Walla Valley Academy Knights jousted themselves in the foot with 11 turnovers in a momentum-changing third quarter here Monday night in Southeast 2B boys semifinal basketball action. Liberty Christian took advantage for 20 points in the quarter and went on to defeat the Knights 65-56.
"A lot of them were unforced," WWVA coach Les Balk said of the turnovers. "Our guys, a couple plays, just turned it over badly. (LC) came and pressured the ball in the backcourt, and I can remember two or three turnovers in the backcourt. It gave them more possessions - more opportunities to score."
"Our defensive pressure was different (in the third quarter)," Patriots coach Terry Watson said. "We gave them a couple different looks on defense and mixed it up every two or three minutes. And the kids did a great job of switching out on the floor."
The Knights held a 30-26 halftime lead over the Patriots, a team it had not beaten this season. The Knights scored four 3-pointers, shot a perfect 6-of-6 from the foul line and turned the ball over a scant six times in the first half.
That changed in the third quarter, as the Knights turned the ball over four times in the first two minutes. Bryan Corrigan made WWVA pay with two quick buckets - one, followed by a made foul shot - that grabbed the lead for the Patriots for the first time since midway through the second period.
WWVA responded with treys by Brad Luce and Michael Hanson, and two made free throws by Marshall Failing as part of an 8-3 run that reclaimed the Knights' lead at 38-34.
Then WWVA went on a three-minute scoring drought in which it committed six turnovers. LC took advantage with a 9-0 run. At the end of the period, the Patriots led by six, 46-40 - a 10-point swing.
WWVA spent most of the fourth quarter down five to seven points, unable to the close the gap.
With 2:30 left in the fourth, LC's Jake Siefken hit two free throws to bump the lead back to seven, 59-52. WWVA finally closed to a three-point deficit, 59-56, thanks to a Matt Moore layup, and, after a Patriot turnover, a Caleb Sauerbier 2-point bucket.
The Patriots ran the shot clock on its next possession, but a long jumper missed badly and bounced out of bounds.
With less than 40 seconds remaining, WWVA's Andrew Scott brought the ball up court. Scott rotated the ball around the perimeter, right-to-left to Hanson, who swung it to an open Luce in the corner. But Luce had just begun his cut and the pass sailed out of bounds.
After that, WWVA was forced to foul, and Liberty Christian shot a perfect 6-for-6 from the free throw line to close the game out.
"Our foul shooting was huge, and that's not typical of us," Watson said. "That's what won the game for us - execution and shooting free throws."
Four Patriots finished in double figures, led by Brett Dustin's 19. Siefken added another 14 points, including 7-of-9 foul shots, while Corrigan and Cody Brockman each contributed 11. Corrigan led LC with 11 rebounds to tally a double-double.
"We had turnovers late, and they rebounded really well offensively," Balk said. "One possession, they had four offensive rebounds and they scored.
"They made the big plays. They deserve the win."
Marshall Failing scored 14 points for the Knights, followed by 12-point games from Scott and Sauerbier. Guard Brad Luce grabbed top rebounding honors with 10.
"I think our kids played really well, but (LC) is a good squad," Balk said.
The loss drops WWVA into a losers' bracket matchup with DeSales - a team WWVA has twice defeated - Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. The winner of that game must win again Saturday to qualify for the third and final seed to the state tournament.
"Coach told us after the game, ‘Keep your heads up, we're still going to state,'" WWVA guard Andrew Scott said.
Balk knows it won't be easy.
"It's always tough to beat a team three times in a year. We'll have to take advantage of our size and court-quickness. If we do the things we did in the first two games, maybe it'll go our way," Balk said.
Liberty Christian's victory guarantees the Patriots their fifth-consecutive trip to the Washington Class 2B tournament.
Liberty Christian plays in the district finals at 6:30 p.m. Saturday against Waitsburg-Prescott, a 53-46 winner over Garfield-Palouse earlier Monday.
"We've got to execute (against Waitsburg-Prescott)," Watson said. "We've got some mismatches that they have a problem with. We should shoot better since it'll be our second time on this court. It's a bigger court, which plays to our style.
"We watched (W-P) earlier today, and we're more than ready for them."
WALLA WALLA VALLEY ACADEMY (56) - Sauerbier 6 0-2 12, Moore 3 0-0 6, Scott 4 2-2 12, Mar. Failing 3 6-6 14, Luce 3 0-0 7, Beck 0 0-0 0, Max Failing 0 0-0 0, Croft 0 0-0 0, Hanson 1 2-3 5. Totals 20 10-13 56.
LIBERTY CHRISTIAN (65) - Koglin 0 0-0 0, Salzano 2 0-0 5, Siefken 3 7-9 14, Groth 2 0-0 5, Dustin 7 4-6 19, Brockman 3 5-9 11, Roberts 0 0-0 0, Simpkins 0 0-0 0, Corrigan 4 3-3 11, Olson 0 0-0 0. Totals 21 19-27 65.
WWVA 15 15 10 16 - 56
LC 11 15 20 19 - 65
3-point goals - WWVA 6 (Scott 2, Mar. Failing 2, Luce, Hanson), LC 4 (Salzano, Siefken, Groth, Dustin). Total fouls - WWVA 15, LC 19. Fouled out - WWVA (Sauerbier). Technical fouls - none. Rebounds- WWVA 28 (Luce 10), LC 25 (Corrigan 11). Turnovers - WWVA 22, LC 19.