There are very few things more entertaining and impressive than playoff basketball. The annual WIAA Boys Basketball Hardwood Classic at the Tacoma Dome provides an all-you-can-watch marathon of this delightful delicacy – 1,032 minutes of it, to be precise. Here are the best moments, stories and highlights from the tournament:
The youngest team in the tournament, the Eastside Catholic Crusaders saw nearly twice as many minutes by freshmen (283) as by seniors (146), yet easily beat Stanwood and Kelso to march to the semifinals, where they lost to Garfield. The Crusaders went on to take fifth in the tournament after losing to Tacoma powerhouse Lincoln in the third-place game. Though they will certainly hurt from losing leading scorer Brock Mackenzie (18.0 points per game), their trio of freshman standouts in Jaylahn Tuimoloau, Nolan Hickman and Shane Nowell (younger brother of Washington Huskies leading scorer Jaylen Nowell) should make them a force to be reckoned with in the coming years.
Wichita State-bound Erik Stevenson of Timberline put on a magnificent performance in four games of tournament play, dropping 116 points, just three shy of the all-time record set by Andre Winston, Jr. of Lakes in 2010. Though he fell short of the all-time record, Stevenson shattered future NBA lottery pick Michael Porter Jr.’s record for the new tournament format en route to a fourth-place finish for Timberline. Though you might think Stevenson only broke Porter’s record by virtue of playing an extra game (Timberline played on the first day of the tournament, whereas Porter’s 2017 Nathan Hale team had a bye), the Timberline standout only needed three games to top Porter, scoring 41 against Seattle Prep, 23 against Lincoln, and 31 against Wilson to give him 95 points through three games. It was only his 21-point outing against Kelso that brought his average (29.0 points per game) below Porter’s (30.0).
Speaking of the Porter surname, 2017-2018 WIAA “Mr. Basketball” Kevin Porter (no relation to the aforementioned Michael Porter, Jr.) averaged 23.7 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in three tournament games, leading Rainier Beach to the 3A title game. Porter, a USC commit who is the 54th ranked recruit in the country according to ESPN, was outdone in the tournament, however, by teammate Tre Anderson’s 27.3 points per game.
Anderson, who transferred to Rainier Beach this year after winning the 3A Pierce County League MVP last season with Lincoln, went a whopping 31-36 (86.1 percent) at the free throw line, breaking the modern records for both made and attempted free throws in a single tournament (both held by Michael Porter, Jr.). Anderson was instrumental in Rainier Beach’s comeback victory over his old team, keeping the Vikings within striking distance with 20 of their 34 first-half points with teammate Kevin Porter in foul trouble. Though Lincoln led for just under 23 of the game’s 32 minutes, in the end their lack of a go-to scorer the caliber of Porter or Anderson came back to haunt them, and their deep array of quality, defensive-minded players could only carry them so far.
The Rainier Beach Vikings eventually met their match in the 3A championship against the Garfield Bulldogs, now led by the coach who beat them in the final in 2017, Brandon Roy. A former Washington Husky and Portland Trail Blazer, Roy left the Nathan Hale Raiders after one season to coach his alma mater at Garfield. Though Garfield’s roster included the number 79 recruit in the country in future St. John’s Red Storm forward J’Raan Brooks, as well as former Nathan Hale starter PJ Fuller, it was guards Pierre Cockrell, Jr. and Eddie Turner who led the way for the Bulldogs in the tournament, with 15.0 and 13.0 points per game, respectively. In the final, Garfield put up a balanced effort, with all five starters scoring at least eight points and senior Joe Saterfield providing nine rebounds off the bench, while Rainier Beach was reliant almost entirely on the dynamic duo of Porter and Anderson, getting just 10 total points from their other three starters and just four off the bench. The two were effective enough, however, to keep the game close throughout, and the Vikings entered their final possession trailing the Bulldogs by just three points. On that possession, Anderson was fouled on a three-point shot and went to the line for three free throws with just two seconds remaining. He promptly knocked down all three shots to send the game into overtime knotted at 59 points apiece. Garfield was able to outscore Rainier Beach 13-4 in the extra period, however, winning their second championship in four years, and giving head coach Roy his second title in as many years (having won the 2017 title with Nathan Hale).
The Curtis Vikings were as hot as a team can get for the first four minutes of tournament play, jumping out to a 20-2 lead over the Davis Pirates. Though they hung on to beat Davis, it was downhill from there for the Vikings, however, as they were outscored by 21 in their next seven and a half quarters. This was in spite of solid play by the trio of 4A SPSL co-MVP Zack Paulsen, his older brother Jase Paulsen (who earned an honorable mention) and guard Jordan Parker (who was second team all-SPSL for 4A). The three averaged 16.7, 9.7, and 11.7 points per contest, respectively. The Vikings’ undoing was their inability to connect from long range against Federal Way in the quarterfinals, as they failed to make a three-point shot until the closing seconds of the first half, falling to the Eagles by a score of 73-60. As Tim Kelly-coached teams always do, Curtis came ready to play in their consolation game against Enumclaw. However, they were unable to find an answer for the Hornets’ Kaden Anderson, who tormented the Vikings for 22 points and 15 rebounds, and fell to Enumclaw 45-44. Anderson was dominant throughout the tournament, averaging 24.3 points, 13.7 rebounds, and 3.3 blocks per game.
After narrowly beating the Sunnyside Grizzlies (who saw senior guard Art Palacios put up his 1,000th career point, scoring 20 in the game) on Wednesday, the Lewis & Clark Tigers upset the Enumclaw Hornets on Thursday by a score of 69-59 on the back of Naje Smith’s 21 points and 13 rebounds. On Friday they looked primed to pull off another upset, this time against Federal Way, leading by 12 near the beginning of the second quarter. They weren’t able to hold on to that lead, however, and were outscored 23-8 in the second quarter. They were never quite able to recover, falling to the Eagles 62-53. The Tigers did bounce back in the third-place game, though, topping Richland 76-70 to place third in the tournament – not bad for the #9 seed.
Though they fell to Lewis & Clark in the third-place game, Richland looked dominant at times. With 7’3 Riley Sorn (returning to the Tacoma Dome after crushing the blocks record with 30 last year) surrounded by a terrific trio of guards in Ryan Wagar, Cole Northrop and Cody Sanderson, the Bombers’ fifth-place finish was not indicative of their dominance; had they been able to best undefeated Gonzaga Prep in their semifinal matchup (which may have been the best game of the tournament), they might be celebrating a state title. In that game, Wagar hit a game-tying three with 14 seconds left. The Richland defense stopped Gonzaga Prep on the ensuing possession, sending the game into overtime. Gonzaga Prep got the ball back in a tie game with 13 seconds left on the clock and almost turned it over, but head coach Matty McIntyre was able to call a timeout with three seconds left for a chance at one last shot. And what a shot it was: star forward Anton Watson, a junior who has already committed to play at Gonzaga University, caught the in-bound pass and hit a deep turnaround three as time expired to send the Bullpups to the title game.
The 4A final was a matchup of two of the top juniors in the state in Gonzaga Prep’s Anton Watson and Federal Way’s Jaden McDaniels. Federal Way led for the majority of the game and outperformed the Bullpups handily on the boards, grabbing more offensive rebounds (12) than Gonzaga Prep snagged defensive rebounds (11). But on the back of Watson’s game-high 22 points, as well as 15 from sophomore Liam Lloyd, Gonzaga Prep kept it close, trailing by just three at the end of the third, despite an 11-point quarter from McDaniels. The tide started to turn for the Bullpups at the end of the quarter, however, when McDaniels picked up his fourth foul while allowing a three-point play to Watson. The foul trouble would keep McDaniels on the bench for half of the fourth quarter. Shortly after he re-entered, Gonzaga Prep took its first lead since the first quarter on a three-point shot by Lloyd. After a Watson and-one, and an impressive possession that saw four offensive rebounds from Gonzaga Prep, the Bullpups had extended that lead to five (their largest of the game). Later, Federal Way’s Jalen Womack hit a deep three-pointer to cut the lead down to one with just under two seconds on the clock. The Eagles sent Gonzaga Prep’s Jacob Parola to the line in the hopes of getting one more possession to hoist a potential game-winning shot. That chance came when Parola missed the first and made the second of his two free throws, giving Federal Way the ball with 1.8 seconds left, trailing 54-52. Womack was able to launch a half-court heave that came tantalizingly close to giving Federal Way one of the wildest wins in recent memory. But instead, Gonzaga Prep capped their undefeated season (27-0) with a state title.