WALLA WALLA - The availability of Asotin forward Ben Servatius was in doubt prior to his team's winner-to-state, loser-out game with Walla Walla Valley Academy during the final session of the Southeast 2B District 9 boys basketball tournament at George Ball Court on the Whitman College campus Saturday night.
Servatius was questionable due to a strep throat.
But when the final buzzer sounded, it was the gallant Knights that were sick.
Servatius scored 21 points, including six free throws in the waning moments of the fourth quarter, as the Panthers earned the district's No. 3 seed into the Class 2B state tourney in Spokane with a 64-56 triumph.
The 6-foot-2 guard/forward also ripped off a game-high 12 rebounds.
"I told him that some people play their best games when they're sick," Asotin coach Eric Spencer said afterward.
The win was redemption for Asotin, which suffered a home loss to WWVA in the opening round of the tournament on Feb. 19.
Asotin broke away from a 5-5 tie in the opening period with an 11-0 run that was capped by a Josh Trimmell basket at the 4:34 mark.
The Knights responded with a 10-0 spurt to pull within one, 16-15, at the quarter buzzer. Michael Hanson, who led all scorers in the contest with 27 points, drained a 3-point shot with nine seconds on the clock to end the blitz.
Things stayed tight and competitive throughout the second quarter. Hanson sank two freebies with 46 second left to tie the score at 25-25.
Maxwell Failing gave the Knights a 27-25 edge going into halftime by converting a low-post chance with seven seconds to go - an opportunity that was set up by a Hanson assist off of dribble penetration into the lane.
"He kills us every time we play them," Spencer said.
After gaining a five-point spread, 32-27, early in the third quarter, the Knights relinquished the lead. Asotin took a 35-32 advantage before WWVA retaliated with a 7-0 surge to grab a four-point margin, 39-35.
The Knights led 41-40 heading into the final period.
Asotin took the lead for good early in the fourth. Guard Drew Heitstuman, who ended up with 19 points, knocked down a left-angle 3 with 5:13 remaining to put the Panthers in front, 50-48.
Heitstuman had 10 tallies in the fourth quarter on 4-of-6 shooting - 2-for-2 from outside the arc.
"We had quality play down the stretch," Spencer said. "We took care of the ball and got the right guy to the free throw line."
Asotin ended up 9-for-10 from the charity stripe compared to 10-of-18 for the Knights. The Panthers prevailed despite 26 turnovers while WWVA committed 16.
"I can't fault the effort," WWVA coach Les Balk said. "I felt we controlled the tempo. The difference was they made their free throws and we didn't. We missed a lot of layins.
"(Heitstuman) was amazing," Balk said. "Give them credit. They showed a lot of heart and courage."
Brad Luce added 13 points for WWVA and Caleb Sauerbier contributed 11.
WWVA (56) - Sauerbier 5-10 1-4 11, Moore 0-7 1-2 1, Scott 0-8 0-0 0, Mar. Failing 1-9 0-0 2, Luce 5-16 2-2 13, Beck 0-2 0-0 0, Max. Failing 1-1 0-0 2, Croft 0-0 0-0 0, Hanson 9-13 6-8 27. Totals 21-66 10-18 56.
ASOTIN (64) - Ankney 1-2 0-0 2, Heitstuman 7-15 0-1 19, Dalton 2-10 2-2 6, Lohman 3-6 0-0 6, Servatius 7-11 7-7 21, Trimmell 3-8 0-0 8, Jose 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 24-56 9-10 64.
WWVA 15 12 14 15 - 56
ASOTIN 16 9 15 24 - 64
3-point goals - WWVA 4-17 (Hanson 3-3, Luce 1-6, Mar. Failing 0-2, Beck 0-2, Scott 0-4), Asotin 7-14 (Heitstuman 5-7, Trimmell 2-5, Dalton 0-2). Total fouls-WWVA 17, Asotin 21. Fouled out-none. Technical fouls-none. Rebounds-WWVA 42 (Mar. Failing 9), Asotin 44 (Servatius 12). Turnovers-WWVA 16, Asotin 26.