Porter's Hail Mary lifts Blue Devils over Chiawana, 52-49

Walla Walla Blue Devils post Tanner Cranor (center) makes a diving pass surrounded by Chiawana defenders competing for a rebound during the second half of their Friday-evening game in Walla Walla.

Walla Walla Blue Devils post Tanner Cranor (center) makes a diving pass surrounded by Chiawana defenders competing for a rebound during the second half of their Friday-evening game in Walla Walla. Photo by Matthew Zimmerman Banderas.

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Walla Walla Blue Devils post Tanner Cranor (left) links arms with Chiawana's Jesse Briones as the two battle for a rebound during the second half of their Friday-evening game in Walla Walla.

WALLA WALLA — Teams live by the 3-pointer and they die by the 3.

On Friday night Wa-Hi lived by the 3.

Junior guard Gabe Porter tossed up the equivalent of a Hail Mary — lobbing an off-balance 3-pointer from the right corner after sprinting down the court — as time expired for a three-point, 52-49 victory over Chiawana in both teams’ Mid-Columbia Conference opener.

Porter’s throw, which looked more like a shortstop gunning down a runner at first than a 3-point attempt, was a last-ditch effort to avoid overtime in a game that saw 18 lead changes before Chiawana’s TJ Avery tied things up at 49 with 9 seconds left. But just like all four of Porter’s previous attempts, this one fell true.

“I was proud of the guys,” Wa-Hi coach John Golden said of his team. “They battled back, (Chiawana) never got too far away from us and our guys are pretty resilient.

“We kind of muddled through, muddled through, and then at the end got it done,” Golden said. “Nothing really seems to bother them.”

Porter came off the bench to give 27 minutes and finished with 15 points. Eric Klicker tied him with 15 points on 5-of-12 attempts from beyond the arc, and as a team Wa-Hi shot 50 percent from 3.

“(Klicker has) got the green light,” Golden said. “We talked to him about catching it in rhythm, and I thought he forced it a little bit Tuesday night at Pendleton, but tonight he really didn’t.”

Although it won’t show up in the stats, Wa-Hi’s bigs were key to setting up some of the team’s open 3s.

“It’s nice when we get a little inside touch and then back out,” Golden said, “and that was the difference for Gabe, a lot of his 3s were back out from the inside, and he’s a rhythm shooter as well.

Tanner Cranor finished with 10 points on 5-of-11 shooting and pulled down seven rebounds.

Wa-Hi turned a 16-11 deficit at the end of the first into a 30-24 lead at halftime thanks to eight points from 6-foot-8 Cranor and five from 6-5 post Peter Warrinner.

But Porter’s 3 with 39 seconds left in the third was the only offense Wa-Hi managed in that quarter, and the fourth quarter began with the score knotted at 33.

“I was really pleased the way we moved the ball in that second quarter,” Golden said. “In the third quarter we came out ­— I thought we had great opportunities, great looks at the basket — and we just threw it away two or three times. We just can’t do that.”

Porter and Klicker combined to score the Blue Devils’ last 12 points with two 3s apiece.

“We talked about it all week, what we’ve done up to this point is great, but it all starts tonight,” Golden said of opening conference play. “And like I said, we’ve got to win the home games. (The win) was fun to get it, and obviously it was a little dramatic at the end, and hopefully the fans will come back.”

Aaric Wren led the Riverhawks with 13 points on 4-of-9 shooting from the field and four free throws.

Wa-Hi held Chiawana to just 19 percent shooting from 3 and 42 percent shooting from the floor, but the Riverhawks’ 50 percent mark from the free-throw line (7-of-14) almost proved decisive as the Blue Devils hit just one of their 10 tries from the charity stripe.

“We’ve got some guys that can shoot, but defensively I thought that second quarter, and part of the third quarter as well, we defended well,” Golden said. “But we just weren’t able to take advantage of that defense.”

The Blue Devils improve to 5-0 on the season and visit Kennewick Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.

WALLA WALLA 52, CHIAWANA 49

CHIAWANA (49) — Harris 3-4 1-2 8, Cazier 2-8 0-0 5, Avery 2-4 0-0 5, Wren 4-9 4-7 13, Rausch 1-3 0-0 2, Koval 2-3 0-1 4, Henderson 2-4 0-0 4. Totals 19-45 7-14 49.

WALLA WALLA (52) — Toon 0-1 0-0 0, Klicker 5-13 0-0 15, Porter 5-6 0-0 15, Locati 2-4 0-0 5, Thonney 0-0 0-0 0, Eggart 0-3 0-0 0, Arias 0-1 0-0 0, Gilmore 0-0 0-0 0, Cranor 5-11 0-7 10, Warrinner 3-4 1-3 7. Totals 20-43 1-10 52.

Chiawana 16 8 9 16 — 49

Wa-Hi 11 19 3 19 — 52

3-pointers — Chia 4-21 (Harris, Cazier, Avery, Wren), Wa-Hi 11-22 (Klicker 5, Porter 5, Locati). Total fouls — Chia 14, Wa-Hi 14. Fouled out — none. Technical fouls — none. Rebounds — Chia 33 (Wren 6), Wa-Hi 23 (Cranor 7). Turnovers — Chia 17, Wa-Hi 16. Assists — Chia 7 (Avery 2, Wren 2), Wa-Hi 14 (Locati).

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