ASOTIN - The third time was the charm for Dayton here Wednesday night in the semifinal round of the Southeast 2B District boys basketball tournament.
Now Bulldogs coach Roy Ramirez is hoping for a repeat performance Friday at Sherwood Center on the Whitman College campus in Walla Walla when his team squares off with Waitsburg-Prescott in the district championship game.
"We've been on a little bit of a roll," Ramirez happily conceded after his Bulldogs upended Asotin 56-49 in Wednesday's semifinal battle on the Panthers' home floor. "We're 8-2 in our last 10 games and the kids are really starting to believe in themselves."
Dayton lost twice to Asotin during the regular season. The Panthers won 67-51 in a Dec. 18 game here and prevailed 64-50 when the teams met in a rematch Jan. 28 in Dayton.
"The difference in this game was that we didn't allow Asotin to get out to a big lead early in the game," Ramirez said. "In the two previous games, they took big leads in the first half, the first quarter actually, and we had to work so hard just to get back into the games. And we could never quite get over that hump.
"In this game we came out and initiated the scoring. We had the lead after the first quarter, we led at halftime and it was a more manageable game for us. I thought we played with a lot of energy."
The Bulldogs' Garrett Turner pumped in 22 points to lead all scorers, but it was Dayton's offensive balance that proved to be more productive. Colton Bickelhaupt contributed eight points, Hayden Fullerton scored seven and Kroft Sunderland and Dain Henderson each finished with six points.
Asotin, meanwhile, got 19 points from Ben Servatius, 11 from Drew Heitstuman and 10 from Josh Trimmell. But no other Panther scored more than three points.
The Bulldogs led 32-22 at halftime but allowed most of that lead to slip away in the third period when Asotin's defense limited Dayton to six points and closed the gap to 38-35 going into the fourth quarter. But the visitors regrouped and rode an 18-point finish to the victory.
The Bulldogs also lost twice to Waitsburg-Prescott during the regular season. Once-beaten W-P won 36-34 in a Dec. 17 game in Waitsburg and 67-60 when the teams played a second time Jan. 22 in Dayton.
"Waitsburg-Prescott is a very good basketball team," Ramirez said. "We are going to have to play well to win Friday."
Waitsburg-Prescott reached the championship game by defeating Walla Walla Valley Academy 59-43 Wednesday night in Waitsburg in the other semifinal game. Friday's championship game is slated for 7:30 p.m., and the winner moves on to a sub-regional game in Spokane next week.
WWVA and Asotin meet Friday in a 3 p.m. loser-out game at Sherwood Center. The winner of that game faces the loser of the championship game Saturday night at 7:30, with the winner of that one qualifying for a sub-regional game in Wenatchee.
There are also a pair of Southeast 2B District girls games slated Friday at Sherwood Center. Asotin and Liberty Christian tangle in a loser-out game at 4:30 p.m. and DeSales meets undefeated Waitsburg-Prescott in the championship game at 6 p.m.
The championship-game winner advances to sub-regional play in Spokane. The loser plays again Saturday at Sherwood at 6 p.m. against the survivor of Friday's Asotin-Liberty Christian game for a ticket to sub-regional play in Wenatchee.
Dayton 56, Asotin 49
DAYTON (56) - Frame 0-3 0-0 0, Norris 1-3 1-2 3, Bickelhaupt 3-7 1-2 8, Schlachter 1-4 2-3 4, Henderson 3-3 0-0 6, Fullerton 2-9 3-4 7, Turner 8-18 4-4 22, Sunderland 3-14 0-0 6. Totals 21-61 11-15 56.
ASOTIN (49) - McIntosh 1-3 0-0 2, Heitstuman 3-14 7-8 11, Dalton 1-4 0-0 3, Parsons 1-7 0-0 2, Servatius 7-20 4-4 19, Trimmell 3-8 2-2 10, Scheibe 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 16-58 13-13 49.
Dayton 16 16 6 18 - 56
Asotin 14 8 13 14 - 49
3-point goals - Dayton (Bickelhaupt, Turner 2), Asotin (Dalton, Servatius, Trimmell 2). Total fouls - Dayton 13, Asotin 15. Fouled out - Dayton (Sunderland), Asotin (Heitstuman). Technical fouls - Dayton (bench).