TACOMA -- The locker room housing the Kamiakin boys basketball team was so quiet after the Braves' 50-46 3A semifinal loss to Seattle Prep, Tacoma Dome officials weren't sure anybody was in there.
For the second time in as many seasons -- and on the very same floor -- Kamiakin's dream of a state title had just ended with a heartbreaking semifinal loss.
The silence had nothing to do with self-pity.
It wasn't shame. It was pride.
"I've never been so proud in my life to know I was a part of something like this," said Zach En'Wezoh, who fought through the pain of a twisted ankle to play most of the second half.
"The kids left their guts on the floor tonight," said Braves coach Brian Meneely, his voice raspy from 32 minutes chock with intensity. "We had high expectations for ourselves. We wanted to -- I shouldn't say play for the title. We wanted to win a state championship."
Instead, Kamiakin (23-2) will face University (20-5) at 11:15 a.m. today in the third-fifth-place game. Seattle Prep (23-5) will face Metro League rival Rainier Beach (25-3) in the 3A championship at 7 p.m.
For Braves' coaches and players alike, the loss cut deeper than anything they could imagine.
"It hurts a lot. After four years, it comes down to four points," said Braves 6-foot-6 post Justin Pedley, who put together a monster stat line, leading both sides with 19 points, nine rebounds and three steals.
Pedley, a three-time all-CBBN selection, played a big role in getting Kamiakin to this point, and he didn't disappoint on the big stage. After En'Wezoh made a big statement with a two-handed power dunk for the Braves' first two points, Pedley made an eve bigger one with his first shot, a 3-pointer that gave the Braves a 5-2 lead after 2 1/2 minutes.
As Pedley and his teammates executed their game plan to near-perfection, Kamiakin held the lead for the next 25 minutes. The Braves led by as many as 11 midway through the second quarter thanks to the contributions of each player.
"Their height makes it hard to match up with them, but our guards did a good job helping out with (6-8 forward Mitch) Brewe," Pedley said.
Brewe and fellow wingman Josh Martin, who combined for almost 30 points a game during the regular season, combined for just 17 against Kamiakin. Brewe finished with 11 points and a team-high seven rebounds.
Pedley and En'Wezoh were matching up well against the Panthers' big men until En'Wezoh rolled his left ankle coming across the lane late in the second quarter, an unfortunate coincidence after Braves guard Javan Williams had to leave Thursday's quarterfinal win over Kennedy with -- you guessed it -- a sprained ankle.
Williams toughed it out for 28 minutes Friday, scoring six points. En'Wezoh's return, however, was in question after he left the game and remained with the team trainer in the locker room as the third quarter began.
Despite En'Wezoh's absence, Kamiakin still led 27-22 at the half and, with a new game plan in place, started an 8-2 run that pushed the lead to 35-24 with 4:17 left in the third.
Cody Wilmoth was a major catalyst during the run, which was capped by Pedley's pretty fadeaway in the lane over D.J. Penner. Wilmoth, a member of last year's third-place team as well as a member of the Braves' 3A runner-up football squad, played fearlessly, dribbling in amongst the tall trees for six points and four rebounds.
"Everybody stepped up when Zach went out. We had a couple people playing different positions they're not used to," Wilmoth said. "Alex Quinn is usually a post, but he was playing guard tonight."
En'Wezoh returned midway through the third quarter, but the Braves had a difficult time finding their rhythm with him back in the middle. They committed four turnovers over the final 3:37 of the third while Seattle Prep cut the lead to 39-34.
"Our game plan was affected after Zach got hurt. It changed our sub rotations," Meneely said.
The Panthers started the fourth quarter on a 9-2 run as Fenner started to get hot. He drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing 49 seconds in and converted a three-point play less than a minute later to cut the lead to 41-40.
Martin hit a pair of free throws that gave Seattle Prep its first lead since the first quarter with 4:36 left. The Panthers never lost the lead from there, building it up to 48-43 after three more points from Fenner, who finished with 18 points.
But Pedley wasn't done. He drew a foul on a 3-point shot and swished each free throw to cut Prep's lead down to 48-46 with 34 seconds left.
"I just knew I had to make them," Pedley said. "If I missed, our season was over."
Phillips hit a free throw to increase the Panthers' lead to 49-46. Then Pedley found Cooper Clyde open on the left baseline for a chance at a game-tying shot. The shot glanced off the back rim, and Fenner sank one last free throw to ice the win.
SEATTLE PREP -- Clough 3, Phillips 4, D.J. Fenner 18, Brewe 11, Martin 6, Caindec, Marchesini 4, Hicks 4. Totals 19-47 11-17 50.
KAMIAKIN -- Williams 6, Wilmoth 8, Clyde 5, Justin Pedley 20, En'Wezoh 6, Quinn 2, Hunt. Totals 19-39 5-5 46.
Seattle Prep 6 16 12 16 -- 50
Kamiakin 11 16 12 7 -- 48
3-point goals -- SP 1x9 (Fenner), Kamiakin 3x12 (Pedley 2, Clyde). Total fouls -- SP 10, Kamiakin 13. Rebounds -- SP 23 (Mitch Brewe), Kamiakin 30 (Pedley 9). Turnovers -- SP 5, Kamiakin 18. Assists -- SP 12 (Michael Phillips 6), Kamiakin 9 (Joe Hunt 4). Steals -- SP 11 (Fenner 3), Kamiakin 4 (Pedley 3).