WALLA WALLA — Just four days removed from a one-point victory over Chiawana, Wa-Hi’s boys faced the unenviable prospect of a rematch with the Riverhawks in the opening game of the 2013 Mid-Columbia Conference District Tournament.
But the Blue Devils delivered Tuesday night, defeating the Riverhawks for the third time this season, 58-51, in a game that featured no last-second drama and required no late-game heroics from the home team.
Wa-Hi (13-8 overall, 8-7 MCC) now travels to Pasco (12-8, 7-7) for another loser-out game against the Bulldogs Friday at 7 p.m.
The winner there faces Richland Saturday in a battle for the league’s first seed to regionals. The loser advances as the second seed.
“Hopefully we’re peaking at the right time, but Friday’s going to be tough,” said Golden of Wa-Hi’s game against the Bulldogs. “Pasco’s been playing awfully well and they’ll be tough at their place. But our guys’ll be ready.”
Center Tanner Cranor scored 21 points and pulled down nine rebounds in a dominating performance, as the Riverhawks had no answer for the 6-foot-8 senior in the low block.
Gabe Porter scored 19 points from a variety of spots on the court, including a pair of 3s, several mid-range catch-and-shoot jumpers and a few driving baskets. Post Paul Gilmore added eight points off the bench before fouling out with 4:24 to go in the fourth.
Wesley Henderson scored 19 to lead the Riverhawks and was the only Chiawana player to score in double digits.
Wa-Hi outrebounded the Riverhawks 35-to-26, including a 14-to-7 advantage on the offensive boards.
As a team Wa-Hi hit 22-of-49 from the field (44.9 percent) while Chiawana hit 15-of-38 (39.5 percent).
Porter drew first blood with a 3-pointer from the corner but the Blue Devils didn’t hold another lead until just two minutes remained in the first half.
A Cayden Cazier runner with less than a second left gave the Riverhawks a 16-12 lead going into the second and Chiawana looked poised to pull away.
But Cranor scored his second and third baskets of the game to pull Wa-Hi even, 16-16 with 5:53 left in the half, before picking up his second foul and taking a seat on the bench.
In his stead Gilmore, a 6-4 forward, picked up where Cranor left off.
He hit a guarded hook shot and Porter nailed a jumper to give Wa-Hi a 20-19 lead with 2:48 to go in the half. Gilmore scored another four points and Porter sank a layup with 22 seconds left to give Wa-Hi its biggest lead to that point, 29-25, at halftime.
“Paul’s been playing well in practice and playing well when he gets in,” said Golden of Gilmore, who also finished with five rebounds in 17 minutes of play. “Tonight, offensively he was big when we needed him. That was huge.”
Aaric Wren answered the bell for the Riverhawks as the second half began.
He hit 3-of-3 free throws after being fouled on a missed 3-pointer and hit another jumper to vaporize the Blue Devil lead.
Henderson added on with a windmill layup and, in the space of 2:08, what had been a four-point Wa-Hi lead became a three-point hole.
Cranor hit Wa-Hi’s first bucket of the half at the 5:27 mark to stem the bleeding and the teams traded baskets until the break, when Peter Warinner hit a putback at the buzzer to give Wa-Hi at 44-42 lead.
“We came out of the locker room (after halftime) I thought, we got a couple of stops defensively, hit a couple of shots, but they’re a well-coached team. They’re coming back,” Golden said. “And they did. They made a run to get back in, then we hit that bucket right at the end of the quarter I thought was big.”
This time the lead stuck.
The Blue Devils held Chiawana scoreless over the first 2:23 of the fourth quarter, and in the meantime Wa-Hi fed the rock to Cranor like he was a hungry hungry hippo.
The center scored the first seven Wa-Hi points of the quarter and Porter capped the 10-5 run with a 3 from the corner to give Wa-Hi an insurmountable 54-47 lead with four minutes left to play.
Porter missed the front end of a one-and-one with one minute left to leave a window open for Chiawana, down just seven points, 56-49.
But Chiawana elected not to foul and Wa-Hi ran the clock off to seal the win.
The Blue Devil bench contributed just 11 points in the win, with Porter and Cranor doing the most offensively, but it provided the spark Golden felt Wa-Hi needed to be successful.
“I thought we got a great effort off the bench tonight,” Golden said. “Andrew Thonney came in and got some rebounds, I thought Paul Gilmore was spectacular off the bench, Peter Warriner came in and gave us some great minutes off the bench, Parker Toon came in — it was kind of the bench tonight that really helped us out.
“You need that this time of year,” he continued. “We got a playoff game under our belt, but we’ve got to get ready for another game Friday.”
WALLA WALLA 58, CHIAWANA 51
CHIAWANA (51) — Cazier 2-4 5-7 9, Avery 0-2 6-8 6, Wren 2-6 3-3 7, Mendoza 1-4 0-0 3, Briones 1-3 1-2 3, Koval 1-7 1-2 4, Henderson 8-12 3-6 19. Totals 15-38 19-28 51.
WALLA WALLA (58) — Toon 0-1 0-0 0, Klicker 2-8 1-2 7, Porter 7-14 3-5 19, Thonney 0-2 1-2 1, Eggart 0-0 0-0 0, Hogan 0-0 0-0 0, Arias 0-2 0-0 0, Gilmore 3-5 2-4 8, Cranor 9-16 3-8 21, Warinner 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 22-49 11-21 58.
Chiawana 16 9 17 9 — 51
Walla Walla 12 17 15 14 — 58
3-point goals — Chia 2-11 (Mendoza, Koval), Wa-Hi 3-9 (Klicker, Porter). Total fouls — Chia 16, Wa-Hi 20. Fouled out — Chia (Koval), Wa-Hi (Gilmore). Technical fouls — none. Rebounding — Chia 26 (Koval 6), Wa-Hi 35 (Cranor 9). Turnovers — Chia 13, Wa-Hi 12. Assists — Chia 9 (Cazier 3, Mendoza 3), Wa-Hi 12 (Klicker 4).