Richland coach Earl Streufert is an educated man, but he was at a loss for words when asked to explain his team's latest shooting performance in Friday's 56-45 semifinal loss to Gonzaga Prep at the 4A Eastern Regionals at Toyota Center.
"I don't know why," he said. "Prep played really good defense, but we made good adjustments and got the ball where we wanted. We missed too many layins and free throws, two things this club doesn't do."
Through its first four playoff games this season, Richland had shot well over 50 percent from the field and stayed close to 80 percent from the free-throw line. But against the second-ranked Bullpups, the Bombers never found a comfort zone, hitting just 29 percent
(14-for-49) from the field and an inexplicable 14-of-28 from the free-throw line.
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"We can't worry about it," Streufert said. "We're too good of a shooting team to worry about it."
Third-ranked Richland (21-4) will play Davis (19-7) at 1 p.m. today for one of two remaining spots to next week's 4A state tournament in Tacoma. Gonzaga Prep (22-2) will face Mead (19-5) in today's regional championship at 5 p.m.
The title game will be a rematch of the Greater Spokane League district championship, which Mead won 10 days ago 53-50 on Prep's home court.
"We've come a long way since back in December," said Bullpups coach Matty McIntyre. "We know (Mead) is a quality opponent who has beaten us twice this season."
Against Richland, Gonzaga Prep got out to a strong start, getting a pair of first-quarter 3-pointers from guard Parker Kelly to take a 16-7 lead after eight minutes. The Bombers went on a quick 7-0 run to begin the second quarter, capped by Hayden Hilty's three-point play, to pull within 16-14. But Kelly hit a turnaround jumper in the lane and then scored a quick transition layin as the Pups pulled ahead 20-14 with just over five minutes left in the quarter.
Kelly finished with a game-high 19 points, and 6-foot-7 post Ryan Nicholas chipped in 15 points and 15 rebounds for Prep.
"We lost Kelly three times, which is pretty inexcusable," Streufert said. "It's probably my fault for focusing on inside too much."
Dylan Radliff led the Bombers with 13 points, but he was hampered by a bad back, which he said flared up last night in his sleep. In the locker room following the game, the senior guard was recuperating with an ice pack strapped below his right shoulder blade and in obvious pain.
"We were all excited at the chance to go to state," he said. "Everybody wanted to make the big shot. Gonzaga Prep played good defense the whole time."
Radliff expects the team to come out firing against Davis, a team the Bombers beat twice this season in Yakima, including a 69-57 win in the CBBN district semifinals.
"It'll be a typical Richland-Davis -- real scrappy," Radliff said. "We'll try to punish them inside. We'll try to get (Calvin) Douglas and (Garrett) Gallinger the ball more."
In spite of the poor shooting, Streufert pointed out the positives of holding one of the state's top teams to just 56 points.
"I thought the kids played with a lot of toughness and a lot of courage," he said. "They kept battling."