It's a coach's nature to want his best player to get the ball with the game on the line.
Kamiakin coach Brian Meneely got exactly that during the Braves' 59-58 win Friday night over the Kennewick Lions in the CBBN 3A district championship game at Kamiakin High School. Kamiakin's all-CBBN post, Justin Pedley, scored 27 points, grabbed nine rebounds and answered the call every time his team needed him, including the game-winning free throw with two-tenths of a second left on the clock.
Even though Pedley had missed 6 of his 9 previous shots from the stripe, Meneely had no doubt about his 6-foot-6 senior putting the game away.
"In all honesty, I thought he'd make them. For the same reason that (Kennewick guard) Bryce Leavitt would make them in that situation," said Meneely, who picked up his second consecutive district title. "He goes to the gym every day and puts in the work.
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"It was all net."
It's also every coach's dream for each player to elevate his game and make big plays when it counts. That's where the capacity crowd at Kamiakin High School got its money's worth.
The Braves (21-1) earned their second consecutive trip to state. They will face the No. 6 seed out of District 3/4 in the first round of the regional round of the 3A state tournament next Friday at Art Dawald Gym in Richland. The Lions (18-4) will host Shadle Park -- the No. 2 seed out of District 8 -- at 6 p.m. Tuesday for a state berth.
Kamiakin and Kennewick split the season series, with each team recording a decisive home win. This one, however, went right down to the wire.
The Braves led 32-21 at halftime but watched the Lions chip away thanks to an inspired second-half effort.
"We knew they were the No. 1 team, but when things started to get tight we were able to force some turnovers," said Kennewick coach Bradyn Leyde. "I thought we were in it. Whenever you've got guys like we have, you never feel like you're not going to win it. We've got a lot of playmakers."
Leavitt (17) and Reggie Clinton (18) combined for 35 points to lead Kennewick, but it was the role players that made a big difference down the stretch. Guard Brandon Pocasangre hit a 3-pointer to open the fourth and later scored on a give-and-go from Clinton to cut Kamiakin's lead to 47-46 with 4:30 to go in the game.
Pedley went to work on the other end,