WALLA WALLA — Walla Walla Valley Academy did not get the memo about District 7 superiority in boys basketball, coming within 2:32 of upsetting Lind-Ritzville-Sprague here Saturday in sub-regional tournament action.
The Knights led 52-51 until the Broncos’ Cort Ruzicka completed a 3-point play to give the Broncos the lead for good at 54-52, and L-R-S hit 6-of-7 free throws the rest of the way to hang on and defeat WWVA 60-52.
“I don’t feel bad,” WWVA coach Scott Wagner said. “They left it all on the court. To be within two with a minute left and to play a tough team like that, the kids came to play tonight and executed well. Wish we would’ve gotten a win, but it was good. They did everything we asked of them.”
The Knights came out of the locker room and hit seven of their first 12 shots, with Alex Wagner draining two treys and going 3-of-4 for eight points, and WWVA raced to a 17-13 lead after one.
The Broncos went to a press and forced seven second-quarter turnovers, but Dustin Rose drained a trey from the left corner to tie the game at 28-28 at the break. The first half saw three ties, six lead changes, and both teams grabbed 16 rebounds.
Rose and the Broncos’ Connor O’Neill traded 3s to open the third.
O’Neill’s jumper forced another tie at 36-36 with 4:32 to play in the third and started a 9-0 L-R-S run as Dylan Hartz’ drive produced a 43-36 Bronco lead with 2:50 to go.
But WWVA would not go away.
Cameron Fitzgerald hit a trey and Rose closed the quarter with another trey to get the Knights within 45-42 entering the fourth.
Six-foot-six Jodan Shutte converted a feed from Wagner and turned it into a 3-point play to get the Knights even at 45-45 with 7:12 to play. A Wagner jumper, two Matt Hanson free throws, and another 3-point play from Shutte produced a 52-50 lead with 4:21 to play, which stood until Ruzicka’s effort with 2:32 left.
The Knights missed two free throws and the front ends of two one-and-ones the rest of the way, and were forced to foul. The Broncos’ Hartz, who led all scorers with 18 points, drilled six consecutive free throws in the last 1:39 to give the Broncos the 60-52 win.
L-R-S plays Monday at Reardan against Northwest Christian for the third seed to Regional.
The Knights hit 20-of-37 from the field, 54 percent, and got 15 points from Rose, 12 from Wagner, and Shutte grabbed a game-high 15 rebounds.
“The guys shot well,” coach Wagner said. “Would’ve been nice to get that (the one-and-ones). Some bounces went our way in the first half that we didn’t get in the second half. But (this one game away from Regional) is a great place to be.”
WWVA finishes with a Southeast 2B regular season title, and with an 18-4 overall mark. Seniors Levi Evans, Rose, Shutte, Hanson, and Alex Wagner finished their Knight careers in the tournament run.
“We had a great season,” coach Wagner said. “Our senior class really set the tone. They have been in the gym working hard. They have laid a foundation that will last a long time with their effort and example of how they have played for each other. They were a real team and it was a pleasure to coach them. It was a great example of how team basketball should be played.”
WALLA WALLA VALLEY ACADEMY 52
WWVA (52) — Coseaert 1-5 0-2 2, Evans 1-2 0-0 2, Fitzgerald 3-4 0-0 7, Hutton 0-2 0-0 0, Rose 5-8 0-0 15, Shutte 4-5 2-2 10, Hanson 1-6 2-2 4, Wagner 5-11 0-2 12. Totals 20-37 4-8 52.
L-R-S (60) — O’Neill 7-12 0-0 16, Hartz 5-13 7-9 18, Ruzicka 2-8 3-4 7, Starring 2-8 0-0 6, Canaday 1-2 0-0 3, Whitmore 2-7 2-3 6, Frederick 1-3 2-4 4. Totals 20-53 14-20 60.
WWVA 17 11 14 10 — 52
L-R-S 13 15 17 15 — 60
3-point goals — WWVA 8-17 (Fitzgerald 1-1, Hutton 0-1, Rose 5-7, Hanson 0-1, Wagner 2-7), L-R-S 6-19 (O’Neill 2-4, Hartz 1-8, Starring 2-5, Canaday 1-2). Total fouls — WWVA 17, L-R-S 10. Fouled out — WWVA (Hanson) Technical fouls — none. Rebounds — WWVA 34 (Shutte 15), L-R-S 30 (Whitmore 12). Turnovers — WWVA 24, L-R-S 13. Assists — WWVA 13 (Hanson 3, Wagner 3), L-R-S 9 (Hartz 5).