The phrase “throw the records out” is a favorite among coaches for a reason, particularly during the playoffs.
The hard truth of that adage hit the Kamiakin boys basketball team like a sledgehammer Tuesday night, following a 51-50 home loss to Mt. Spokane in the Class 3A District 5/8 regional playoffs.
Mt. Spokane was 5-15 with a 13-game losing streak heading into the game. Kamiakin had won eight of its last 10 and held the top Class 3A seed out of the Mid-Columbia Conference.
None of that mattered to Stu Stiles, the Wildcats’ dynamic guard, who scored a game-high 22 points — including the game-winning free throw with 1.2 seconds left on the clock in an unfamiliar gym — to send his team into the next round of the playoffs.
“We’ve been on a skid, but we finally put it all together tonight,” said Stiles, who grabbed a loose ball at midcourt after teammates Jacob Krantz and Cam Scott forced Kamiakin guard Kylle Robertson into a turnover. Stiles then drove to the hoop and was fouled by Tanner Holle.
“We new Stiles was a great athlete. He’s extra talented, and they got him going early. We didn’t do a great job finding him,” Kamiakin coach Brian Meneely said.
Stiles missed the first free throw, bringing cheers from the Braves’ crowd and hope for the possibility of overtime. But those hopes all but ended when Stiles drilled the back end.
A desperation halfcourt pass by Kamiakin was knocked away, and Mt. Spokane celebrated at halfcourt.
“We finally had something go our way,” Wildcats coach Dan Smith said.
Meanwhile, the Braves fell for the second year in a row in the first round as the top seed out of the MCC. Last year, Kamiakin was upset by Rogers in the same game and same place.
“(Mt. Spokane) showed a lot of perserverance to stick around,” Robertson said. “Last year hurt. For me it always hurts more when you let down the upperclassmen. Either way, it hurts a lot.”
Robertson did his best to keep Kamiakin in position to close out a win. The senior guard — who will play football for Central Washington University in the fall — scored 15 points and led the team with four assists and two steals. Robertson hit a 3-pointer on the left wing with 45 seconds left to put Kamiakin up 50-48.
“That was a big shot by Robertson,” Meneely said.
Nine seconds later, Robertson fouled Stiles driving the lane, and Stiles hit both free throws to tie the score.
That set up the Braves’ final possession, and Robertson dribbled the clock down to about 12 seconds before Krantz and Scott came up to pressure him.
“It was just an isolation for a pull up (jumper). They came with a double, and I didn’t keep my head up,” Robertson said.
Mt. Spokane trailed 45-40 with 5:59 left after Tre Joseph nailed a pair of free throws for Kamiakin. But while Kamiakin went scoreless for the next 3 1/2 minutes, Stiles scored six points during an 11-5 run — including his fifth 3-pointer of the game — to earn the victory.
“He’s our go-to player. When we needed a bucket, he made one for us,” Smith said. “He just wants to keep playing.”
The Braves trailed 22-16 after Max Hicks hit a bucket inside for Mt. Spokane with 5:30 left in the second quarter. Joseph hit a pair of free throws to start a 10-3 run that cut the Wildcats lead to 27-26 at the half.
Holle got a chance to play hero during the third quarter, hitting three 3-pointers and scoring 11 of his 15 points during a 13-9 run that gave Kamiakin a 39-36 lead with 3:48 left in the frame.
“Tanner made some big baskets for us tonight. His growth over four years has been tremendous,” Meneely said. “I’m really proud of these guys. It was one of my favorite groups of kids to coach.”
MT. SPOKANE — Moran 1 1-2 3, Stu Stiles 6 5-8 22, Hicks 4 0-0 8, Stevens 2 1-2 5, Krantz 5 0-0 11, Preston 0 0-0 0, Sa.Stiles 0 0-0 0, Scott 1 0-0 2, McCullough 0 0-0 0. Totals 19-45 7-12 51.
KAMIAKIN — Joseph 2 4-6 8, Kylle Robertson 7 0-0 15, Tanner Holle 5 2-2 15, Petsch 3 0-2 6, Fowler 2 0-0 4, Nelson 0 0-0 0, Bayles 1 0-0 2, Benevides 0 0-0 0. Totals 20-49 6-10 50.
Mt. Spokane 17 10 9 15 — 51
Kamiakin 12 14 15 9 — 50
Highlights — 3-pointers: MtS 6-13 (St.Stiles 5), K 4-16 (Holle 3); Rebounds: MtS 31 (St.Stiles 10), K 30 (Fowler 12); Turnovers: MtS 10, K 6; Assists: MtS 11 (St.Stiles 6), K 9 (Robertson 4). Robertson 2 steals; Nelson 2 blocks; .