Richland boys hold off Walla Walla for district title

February 9, 2013 

Mason Hilty, Richland High School’s senior guard, is best known for boosting the Bombers’ hustle board with steals, rebounds and defensive stops.

But he found another gear Saturday night during Richland’s 62-60 District 5 championship win over Walla Walla at Art Dawald Gymnasium, scoring a season-high 21 points to go with five rebounds and two assists.

“It was kind of a classic Walla Walla-Richland game. There have been a lot of those over the years,” Bombers’ coach Earl Streufert said. “They jumped on us early and often. They were up 28-23 at the half, but we had a big third quarter to get back in it.”

Hilty even found his range, drilling a 3-pointer from the right corner to put the Bombers up 56-53 with just over 3 minutes left to play.

“Mason just played like he plays, but tonight he had a look in his eye like he wasn’t going to allow us to get beat,” Streufert said. “Mason was just very confident. He played the second half very intelligently and didn’t foul out.”

Hilty hit 6-of-9 from the field and went 8-of-11 from the free throw line, including two pair of free throws with 1:19 left to put Richland up 61-53. Then he sank another with 20 seconds left for the Bombers’ final point of the night.

After the game, he cherished the opportunity to cut down the nets.

“It’s an awesome feeling. My brother (Hayden) got to do it in 2010,” Hilty said. “It was a grind in those last 40 seconds. They’d come down and hit a 3, and we’d come back on the next play. But I wasn’t concerned at all. I had faith we’d find a way to win.”

Walla Walla made a valiant comeback over the last 1:10, going on a 7-0 run to cut the lead to 61-60 with 20 seconds remaining.

Gabe Porter scored 14 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter alone, including a 4-point play with 39 seconds left to cut the lead to one.

After Hilty hit his final free throw, the Blue Devils got one last look with a half-second remaining on the clock. It was enough to get a quick look at a good shot, and Streufert called a timeout to talk about it with his team.

“I wasn’t going to call it. Hilty told me they had it figured out, but I didn’t want to give it to them,” Streufert said. “We talked about the possibilities they had.”

Walla Walla ended up going to Tanner Cranor, who managed a rushed jumper that hit off the rim, giving Richland the title.

The Bombers (17-4) will face Central Valley (20-1) in the first round of regionals beginning next Friday at Art Dawald Gymnasium. Walla Walla will play host to Tuesday’s winner between Ferris (16-5) and Gonzaga Prep (15-6) on Friday.

“They’re very good. They present problems for you. They’re not that big, but they’ve got a 6-foot-6 post that really does his job well inside,” Streufert said. “We didn’t play very well last time we played up there. We’re going to have to shoot better than 38 percent to beat them.”

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