KENNEWICK — After graduating two of the best players in the history of Walla Walla basketball -- Gary Winston and Michael Weisner -- the Blue Devils were hoping to build some confidence to kick off the 2010-11 season.
A 52-30 road loss to Kennewick last weekend wasn't exactly what they had in mind.
But Saturday's down-to-the-wire 47-42 win at Southridge -- Wa-Hi's second gutsy victory in two nights -- proved that the Blue Devils might not be ready to give up their CBBN crown.
Matt Watson scored a team-high 12 points, four of them in the final 2:48, and grabbed 15 rebounds, surprising the Suns' 6-foot-6 twin towers Derek Porter and Brad Scott with his strong play underneath.
"I think it was just positioning. We worked on blockouts every day in practice this week," said Watson. "We needed backside help when they got the ball inside."
Walla Walla outrebounded Southridge 38-22, getting 15 of them on the offensive end. That made a big difference for a team that lost four starters from last year's Cascade Division champ.
The Blue Devils were coming off last night's dramatic 55-51 home win over Hanford in which they trailed by two with a minute to go but scored six unanswered points -- including a go-ahead layin by Watson -- to win.
"We're a work in progress. There are some great teams in the 4A division," said Wa-Hi coach John Golden. "We're one of those teams that's going to have to grind it out. I think we did that tonight."
Porter definitely created problems for the Blue Devils on the offensive end, scoring a game-high 20 points. Most of them came in the low block, but he showed some versatility by stealing a ball in the backcourt and went coast-to-coast for two in the first quarter. He also drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing to tie the game at 32 in the third quarter.
"Derek is getting better game by game," said Southridge coach Jason DeVere. "Last night and tonight he's really cleaned up his game down on the block. It's just a matter of doing the little things."
The teams stayed close through the whole game. For most of the final three quarters, the lead never exceeded four points by either side.
Momentum could have swung either way in the final 22 seconds. With Walla Walla leading 44-42, Alex Ceron missed the front end of a 1-and-1 for the Blue Devils. His teammate, Robert Ferenz, grabbed the offensive board but Southridge guard Dallas Jones stole the ball.
In a frantic flurry of arms and bodies, Jones hit the floor and, in an attempt to keep possession, tried to pass the ball out to a teammate. But Ceron stepped into the passing lane and got the steal.
"They were scrappy and physical," Porter said. "I don't know if we were prepared for that."
WALLA WALLA -- Ceron 4, Handcox 2, Alden 9, Ferenz 4, Matt Watson 12, Toon 5, Swenson 3, Peasley, Eggers, Campeau, Dunovant 8. Totals 19-45 4-10 47.
SOUTHRIDGE — Palmer 3, Jones 2, Mendenhall 12, Scott 4, Derek Porter 20, Molt, Willard, Keef 1. Totals 18-45 2-7 42.
Walla Walla 12 10 9 16 -- 47
Southridge 13 8 12 9 -- 42
Highlights -- Rebounds: WW 38 (Watson 15), SR 22 (Porter 10); Assists: WW 14 (Handcox 5), SR 6 (Mendenhall 3); Steals: WW 7 (Alden 3), SR 10 (Palmer 3); Turnovers WW 18, SR 15; 3-pointers: WW 5-14 (Alden 2), SR 4-13 (Mendenhall 2).