Kamiakin coach Brian Meneely spoke to his team from a place of experience and wisdom following a gut-wrenching 49-48 loss to Mead in the 4A Eastern Regional semifinals Friday at Toyota Center.
"You play this game long enough, this stuff is going to happen," said Meneely, a former Kennewick standout and veteran of many regional tournaments himself.
But after watching his own standout guard Case Rada miss three potential game-winning shots in the final seconds, Meneely reached out to the 6-foot-2 junior, consoling him for several minutes after the rest of the team had left the locker room.
"The kid cares," Meneely said quietly. "But when he gets up in the morning and reads the paper (today), he's got to be past it. We've got to move on as a team. We're still playing to get to state and we can't have any aftereffects."
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Trailing 49-48 with 4.8 seconds remaining, Mead still had two fouls left to give with the Braves inbounding on the Panthers' end. Each time, the inbounds pass from Riley Hayfield went to Rada, who hit a spinning jumper just a hair after getting fouled by Bo Tully, but the basket was waved off.
"Everybody can sit at home and say we've got fouls to give, but to give them correctly without a shot is not easy," said Panthers coach Glenn Williams.
So with just 2.5 seconds left, Hayfield lobbed it over the defense to the right baseline for Rada, who drove to the hoop and, to his credit, got off three quick shots as time expired.
Kamiakin (19-6) will face Walla Walla (21-5) today in a winner-to-state matchup at 1 p.m. It's a rematch of the CBBN district semifinals, which the Braves won 66-55.
Mead (19-5) will play Gonzaga Prep (22-2) at 5 p.m. for the regional title, a rematch of the Greater Spokane League district championship, which the Panthers won 53-50.
It's also the Panthers' first trip to state since 2003, when former Gonzaga star Adam Morrison led Mead to a second-place finish.
"I told the kids we have a little history to make," said Williams, whose brow was still flush with sweat well after the game after watching Kamiakin erase a 29-20 halftime lead. "That's (Kamiakin) a talented crew. They made good adjustments at halftime. I told my kids we've got to be adaptable, and we didn't adapt very well."
Kamiakin came out of the gate with plenty of energy, going on an 8-2 run to start the game. Garrett Anderson battled against Mead post Taylor Farnsworth, hitting a jump hook over the 6-foot-6 senior and later drilling a 3-pointer off an assist from Shad Fletcher to extend a 12-8 lead with 4:08 left in the second quarter.
Rada started the second quarter off right, hitting a 3-pointer from the top of the key to put the Braves up 20-17 just 22 seconds in. But the Braves' hot start quickly turned into an ice-cold spell as Kamiakin missed its last 10 shots of the quarter.
"We knew we had to execute better," said Braves guard Tyler Holle, who drove into the lane with 2:26 left in the game to give Kamiakin a 48-45 lead, its biggest since the first quarter. Holle finished with a team-high 14 points.