WALLA WALLA - With 5:50 to play in the third quarter Friday night in the Wa-Hi gym, the Blue Devils and visiting Moses Lake were deadlocked at 22-22 in their Big Nine Conference loser-out district tournament boys basketball game.
With two victories over the Chiefs already logged in Wa-Hi's win column, an old sports axiom - it's difficult to beat a team three times in one season - stood between the Blue Devils and the chance to play again Saturday in the district semifinals.
Not to worry.
Wa-Hi outscored the Chiefs 27-12 the rest of the way to post a 49-34 victory that moved the Blue Devils into the double-elimination portion of the tournament. Wa-Hi played at Davis Saturday while Richland visited Chiawana in the other semifinal game.
"Defensively, I was really happy tonight," Wa-Hi coach John Golden said. "The kids came out and worked their tails off at the defensive end. We gave up (only) 15 points in the first half. We told them at halftime to just keep defending. There weren't many adjustments to make. We just had to hit some shots."
Both teams came out slow. Matt Franz, who led the Chiefs with 14 points, hit two treys to spark Moses Lake to a 10-7 lead after one period.
Seth Alden scored four points in the second and the Blue Devil defense limited the Chiefs to 2-of-11 shooting from the floor. Wa-Hi outscored the Chiefs 13-5 and went to intermission up 20-15.
"When you play a loser-out game, a lot of different things can happen," Golden said. "We've only got a couple of guys that have been through the playoff wringer before. We were a little tight. We executed our stuff and got good looks, we just didn't put them in."
Wa-Hi limited the Chiefs to 6-of-23 shooting and, with Matt Watson grabbing 10 rebounds, the Blue Devils controlled the backboards 23-18 over the first 16 minutes.
"I really don't know what was going on," Watson said of the first half. "We came out and played hard and did what we could in the first half."
The Chiefs hit their first three shots - a deuce from Brice Perez, a Franz bucket and a Franz trey - of the second half and drew even at 22-22.
"We gave up some shots," Watson said. "But we rallied back to take the lead again."
Moe Handcox drained a 3 for the Blue Devils to get the lead back for good at 25-22 with 4:45 left in the third.
Wa-Hi forced a traveling violation and Handcox hit a deuce with 4:08 left. Alden stole the ball and dished to Alex Ceron for two points and Wa-Hi jumped the lead to 29-22 with 4:00 left.
"They got it tied and it was just a matter of settling down offensively," Golden said. "We were a little flat, so we started picking up full court. That, a little more defensive pressure, got us going."
Wa-Hi closed the third on a 13-5 run to take a 35-27 edge to the fourth.
Wa-Hi hit 7-of-12 from the floor in the fourth. The Blue Devils got the ball in low to Watson - two feeds from Handcox, and two from Alden - as Watson scored eight in the quarter, and Rob Ferenz added a bucket from the low blocks as Wa-Hi ended this one on a 14-7 fourth-period run.
"We just executed," Watson said. "We had patience and moved the ball. Alden and I work great together. We (all) try to play as a team, and we work on getting the ball inside."
Alden led the Blue Devils with 16 points and dished out seven of Wa-Hi's 17 assists.
"Seth did a good job of distributing the ball and going to the hole," Golden said. "We got Matt some open looks underneath, and that's what we needed. That was a great playoff effort."
Watson finished with 14 points and a game-high 15 rebounds.
Wa-Hi traveled to Davis Saturday hopeful of turning the tables on a Pirates team that beat the Blue Devils twice during the regular season.
"For a third time, it could be a little sketchy," Watson said. "We're going to take our A game."
Wa-Hi 49, Moses Lake 34
MOSES LAKE (34) - Montes 0-0 0-0 0, Samuels 0-0 0-0 0, Porter 0-3 0-0 0, Moats 1-8 0-0 3, Adame 1-4 0-0 2, Phillips 1-3 0-0 2, Franz 4-12 3-5 14, Miller 2-2 0-0 4, Perez 4-11 1-2 9. Totals 13-43 4-7 34.
WA-HI (49) - Toon 0-2 0-0 0, Ceron 2-6 0-0 4, Handcox 3-10 0-0 8, Torres 0-1 0-0 0, Eggers 0-2 0-0 0, Campeau 0-0 0-2 0, Alden 8-11 0-0 16, Dunovant 1-3 0-0 2, Ferenz 2-6 1-2 5, Watson 7-15 0-1 14. Totals 23-56 1-5 49.
Moses Lake 10 5 12 7 - 34
Wa-Hi 7 13 15 14 - 49
3-point goals - ML 4-15 (Moats 1-6, Adame 0-1, Phillips 0-1, Franz 3-6, Perez 0-1), Wa-Hi 2-9 (Toon 0-1, Handcox 2-6, Alden 0-2). Total fouls - ML 10, Wa-Hi 12. Fouled out - none. Technical fouls - none. Rebounds - ML 32 (Perez 10), Wa-Hi 35 (Watson 15). Turnovers - ML 16, Wa-Hi 7. Assists - ML 5 (Franz 2, Moats 2), Wa-Hi 17 (Alden 7).