The Richland boys basketball team hadnt beaten Kamiakin, the two-time defending league champion, in three seasons.
The Bombers did it with a touch of panache Friday night at Art Dawald Gymnasium, securing a share of the Mid-Columbia Conference championship with a 65-55 victory over the Braves while earning their first league title since 2002.
Obviously Ive got to do a better job as a coach, Richland coach Earl Streufert joked about the 11-year gap between championships.
His players, however, were very serious about hanging up at least one more banner in the Dawald rafters.
Were so close to getting some hardware, said Bombers forward Nathan Streufert, who led Richland with 21 points and 10 rebounds. The 6-foot-7 junior scored eight points in the fourth quarter to help stave off a Braves comeback, which brought Kamiakin to within 48-46 to start the fourth quarter.
I thought Nathan played with great effort on offense. He was more aggressive than Ive seen in a while, coach Streufert said. I think the difference between the first and second half is we just didnt make shots (in the second half).
The Bombers shot 14-for-26 (54 percent) from the field in the first half, but a feisty Braves defense held them to 9-of-29 (31 percent) in the second half.
Give Kamiakin credit. They played to their strengths, coach Streufert said. Their guard rotation of (Cooper) Clyde, (John) Petsch and (Kylle) Robertson really controlled the floor and they made a nice run.
Richland hit seven of its eight 3-pointers in the first half and took a 40-31 lead when Nate Streufert took a pass from Mason Hilty and sliced through the lane for a bucket.
Petsch hit a free throw but then turned the ball over on the Braves next possession, giving the Bombers one last shot before the half. Thats when freshman guard Jason Crandall drove into the lane to draw the defense before kicking it out to fellow freshman Steven Beo for a buzzer-beating 3.
We went from thinking we had the basketball with a chance to cut the lead to 6 to trailing by 9. Thats a tough mountain to overcome, Kamiakin coach Brian Meneely said. I thought Richland played really well in the first half. I thought they were a step faster than us. Earl had them dialed in.
Coach Streufert also credited Mason Hilty and Spencer Wheeler, two seniors who were honored on Senior Night, for making big contributions.
Mason was really aggressive on defense, the coach said. Hes such an emotional leader. We wouldnt be where we are without him.
The Bombers (16-4, 12-2 MCC) will get a first-round bye in the 4A district tournament and will play in Richland a week from Saturday at 7 p.m.
The Braves (15-4, 11-2) have one game remaining on its regular-season schedule and can share the league title for the third consecutive season with a home win over Hanford on Tuesday.
Its great any time you can hang a banner to say youre league champs, Meneely said. More than anything, we want to play well.
Kamiakin got a scare in the final seconds of the game when Clyde was involved in a head-to-head collision with Bombers guard Mason Baird going for a loose ball. Baird fell on his back and remained on the floor for nearly a minute, while Clyde walked toward the baseline with a dazed look in his eye.
Neither player finished the game.
Meneely was quick to get Clyde to a trainer for immediate treatment but later reported that he wasnt suffering any ill effects from the incident. Clyde is expected to play against Hanford.
KAMIAKIN Kylle Robertson 21, Cooper Clyde 14, John Petsch 13, Bayles, Fowler 2, Gurney 2, Joseph 1, Holle. Totals 18-41 12-18 55.
RICHLAND Jacob DeVries 13, Beo 8, Payton Radliff 12, Hilty 2, Nathan Streufert 21, Broeske 2, Wheeler 7, Crandall, Baird, McCullough. Totals 23-55 11-13 65.
Kamiakin 17 15 14 9 55
Richland 23 20 5 17 65
Highlights 3-pointers: K 7 (Robertson 5, Clyde 2), R 8 (DeVries 3, Radliff 2, Beo 2, Streufert); Rebounds: K 22 (Petsch 5), R 26 (Streufert 10); Turnovers: K 11, R 7; Hilty 3 steals; Streufert 4 assists.