RICHLAND — The Kennewick boys wanted a fast-paced game.
Third-ranked University was more than happy to give it to them.
The Lions' dream season ended, however, with a 95-81 loss to the Titans in the 3A regional basketball tournament on Friday at Art Dawald Gym in Richland. Kennewick was fighting for its first state tournament appearance since 1989 and just its second since 1944. University also had been long-removed from its last tourney showing in 1985.
Actually, it wasn't so much the pace of the game that wore the Lions down as much as the defensive pressure, size and versatility of the Greater Spokane League runners-up.
"They matched up with us very well athletically, and they're very well coached. Once they got going, they just never stopped," said Kennewick coach Bradyn Leyde, who guided his team to an unforgettably successful 18-5 season regardless of the finish.
Kennewick guard Reggie Clinton played the game of his life, scoring a career-high 35 points on 14-of-23 shooting. The 6-foot-1 senior hit 7 of 12 from 3-point land and never stopped playing, fouling out in the final seconds in the last game of his high-school career.
"We knew they were going to be fast, but it's different playing against them as opposed to seeing them on film," Clinton said. "We're usually the ones pushing the pace, but we got lazy on a few defensive possessions."
Clinton's first 3-pointer gave Kennewick an 18-17 lead with 1:21 left in the first quarter, but the Titans finished the frame on a 4-0 run to take the lead.
They wouldn't trail again.
The Lions looked overmatched early against 6-5 guard Brett Bailey, who went coast to coast after a defensive rebound for the first points of the game. He had four rebounds and eight points in the first eight minutes and 15 points in the first half. He finished with 21 points and muscled his way to a team-high 10 rebounds.
University guard Jared Miller also had a banner night, hitting 12 of 18 from the field. Miller also drained 5-of-9 from the 3-point arc for a season high 33 points.
The 6-foot senior stuck to his pre-game routine of listening to Mariah Carey's inspirational ballad Hero. Then he got down to the business of becoming one.
"I actually like playing on the road. It reminds me of summer AAU leagues," said Miller, who hit a pair of 3s during a 17-0 Titans' run that blew open the game in the second quarter. University hit its first eight shots over the first four minutes to open up a 35-18 lead.
"We've started a few quarters like that," Miller said. "This time, we kept the streak going through the whole game."
The Titans also did a fine job containing Bryce Leavitt, the CBBN 3A Player of the Year, holding him to 12 points through the first three quarters. Leavitt scored 10 in the fourth, including a three-point play with 4:49 left to cut the Titans lead to 81-68. He finished with 22 points, 11 rebounds and four steals.
"Every time I drove in they had somebody helping out. If I got past, they had another guy to pick me up," Leavitt said. "As a team, we usually pick things up. We all missed shots we should have made, and that starts with me."
Clinton, however, didn't miss many. He scored 17 of the Lions' 23 third-quarter points on three 3-pointers and a couple of tough drives in the lane.
"He left it all out on the court. You could see he used everything out there. He's just a great athlete and a great kid," Leyde said. "University just did a nice job. I wish we could keep things going."
Kennewick never gave up, as Clinton and Leavitt combined for 19 of the Lions' 23 fourth-quarter points.
"I felt like if we could've gotten a time out and sat and talked to each other, it would have been better," Clinton said.
Still, it was a worthy finish for a team that gave itself countless memories, if not a state banner to hang on the wall. Plus, it gave Leavitt some extra motivation as his career moves forward into college.
"I'm not going to let it end here. I'll probably be back in the gym tonight, shooting baskets," Leavitt said. "It's probably going to hurt the rest of the year. I feel bad we can't play together anymore."
KENNEWICK -- Pocasangre 6, Bryce Leavitt 22, Mueller 2, Smith 2, Santiago 2, Reggie Clinton 35, S. Plew, Domach 10, Ramos 2. Totals 33-80 4-8 81.
UNIVERSITY -- Smith, Jared Miller 33, McDonald 6, Flynn 2, Bruce 8, Carrieres, Brett Bailey 21, Johnson 13, Martin 12. Totals 33-64 22-29 95.
Kennewick 18 15 23 25 -- 81
University 21 28 23 23 -- 95
Highlights -- Rebounds: Ken 37 (Leavitt 11), Univ 48 (Bailey 10); 3-pointers: Ken 11x37 (Clinton 7, Leavitt 2, Pocasangre 2), Univ 7x22 (Miller 5, Bruce, Martin); Turnovers: Ken 10, Univ 15; Steals: Ken 10 (Leavitt 4), Univ 7 (Martin 3, McDonald 3).