WALLA WALLA - A slow start didn't dampen the spirits the Wa-Hi boys basketball team Tuesday night in the opening game for the Blue Devils against the Lewiston Bengals.
The Bengals shot the ball well early and had leads of 5-0 and 13-2 before Wa-Hi awakened to start their rally.
Wa-Hi trailed 13-8 after the first quarter, but started hitting the mark to lead 25-21 at half. Wa-Hi then controlled the entire second half and led the rest of the way to eventually win, 54-44.
The slow start was a case of the jitters, according to Wa-Hi coach John Golden, who noted that Rob Ferenz was the only returning varsity player with much experience at that level before last night.
Eighteen seconds into the game, the Bengals started firing away and Randon Fuentes hit a 3-pointer from the left arc. Next on the scoreboard was Lewiston's Sam Heitzman, who grabbed a lob, missed a close shot and put back his own rebound at the seven minute mark of the opening stanza.
"Fuentes could shoot it," Golden said. "We lost him a couple of times and Heitzman was a load. We didn't do a good job of getting around in front of him a couple of times."
Forty-five seconds further into the time clock, Ferenz was fouled and hit a pair of free throws to cut into the lead, 5-2.
The next trip down the court for Lewiston, Ferenz committed a shooting foul on Heitzman, who made 1-of-2 free throws to push the lead to 6-2, Bengals.
Then, with five minutes remaining in the first quarter, the Bengals started to take a bite out of the Devils. First a drive to the hoop by Justin Scott, another 3 for Fuentes and a drive down the lane for 2 by Ben Havens made the lead 13-2 with about four minutes remaining in the first quarter.
At that point, Wa-Hi had already committed seven turnovers. The Blue Devils then started to clean up their play up, giving up three more turnovers in the first half.
The Blue Devils next went on a 6-0 scoring run to close the first quarter. Wa-Hi scored on two in-bounds plays underneath the hoop from Nick Peasley to Tanner Cranor and Michael Lesmeister on two consecutive trips down the floor.
The third hoop of the run was on a Sam Arias jumper with 30 seconds remaining in the first quarter.
Fuentes hit a 3 to make it 16-8 to open the second quarter before Wa-Hi really started chipping away at the lead.
"We had a lot of new guys," Golden said. "First game of the year, but I was really happy with the way we bounced back in that second quarter. We started playing some defense and some shots started to fall."
A drive to the hoop by Josh Eggers and a steal by Arias leading to a jumper by Gabe Porter cut the lead to four points at the 7:30 mark of the second quarter.
The Bengals then caught the Blue Devils napping with a quick pass up court for a fast-break hoop by Heitzman to extend the lead to six.
Porter led the Blue Devils back with a bank shot from the right-inside corner of the key to make the score 18-14, Lewiston, with six minutes to go in the second quarter.
An 8-0 Blue Devil run gave Wa-Hi a two-point lead - a lead the Blue Devils never lost.
Kyle Jameson started the run with a mid-range jumper and Spencer Locati hit 1-of-2 free throws, followed by a fast-break bucket on a pass from Eggers to Locati for the layup.
A 3-pointer by Locati gave the Blue Devils the 22-20 lead.
The Bengals let the Blue Devils back in the game with a 2-of-10 free-throw shooting effort in the first half while being in the bonus and double bonus for much of the second quarter.
In the second half, Wa-Hi had eight steals and six assists to build its lead.
Helping out the most with assists and steals was Eggers. He finished with eight steals, five assists and 10 points.
"Josh ran a good show tonight," Golden said. "He moved the ball down the floor well and played well. Defensively, he had some steals."
With the team defense and ball control, the lead ballooned to as high as 17 points in the second half.
In total, the Blue Devils also outrebounded their opponents, 33-28.
Both teams turned the ball over, with 18 for the Blue Devils and 17 for the Bengals.
"We clamped down defensively," Golden said. "Especially in the second and third quarters, we defended real well. That was a good team we faced."
Wa-Hi 54, Lewiston 44
WA-HI (54) - Eggers 4-11 2-7 10, Parnicky 0-1 1-2 1, Porter 2-3 0-0 4, Locati 4-8 1-4 12, Peasley 2-8 2-3 7, Lesmeister 1-7 1-2 3, Arias 1-1 0-0 2, Jameson 2-2 0-0 4, Cranor 2-4 1-2 5, Ferenz 1-2 4-4 6.
LEWISTON (44) - Fuentes 6-9 0-0 16, Pederson 0-0 1-2, Madsen 1-5 1-2 3, Scott 1-2 0-0 2, Gaskill 0-1 1-2 1, Heitzman 5-11 3-7 13, Larson 0-2 0-0 0, Hewett-Steiger 0-0 0-0 0, Havens 4-4 0-2 8, Boyer 0-1 0-2 0.
Lewiston 13 8 5 18 - 44
Wa-Hi 7 17 17 13 - 54
3-point goals - Lewis 4 (Fuentes 4-4). Wa-Hi 2 (Eggers 0-1, Locati 1-4, Peasley 1-3). Total Fouls - Lewis 17, Wa-Hi 20. Fouled out - Lewis (Havens). Technical fouls - Lewis (Heitsman). Rebounds - Lewis 28 (Madsen4 , Havens 4), Wa-Hi 33 (Ferenz 4, Peasley 4). Turnovers - Lewis 17, Wa-Hi 18. Assists - Lewiston 3, Wa-Hi 11 (Eggers 5).