Anyone who expected the Mid-Columbia Conference-champion Richland High School boys basketball team on Friday to blow the doors off of visiting Lewis and Clark, the Greater Spokane League’s No. 4 seed, was sorely mistaken.
The Bombers were pushed to the brink by a pesky Tigers team that refused to go away, but some clutch free-throw shooting allowed Richland to come out with a 70-67 victory in the MCC-GSL 4A sub-regional first-round game.
Tyler Kurtz led the Bombers with a game-high 28 points, but it was sophomore guards Cole Northrop and Garrett Streufert knocking down all six of their free throws in the last 24 seconds — they went 9 for 10 overall — that allowed Richland to hold on for the win.
“Either my son, Garrett, or Cole; Garrett’s 96 percent (in free throws) and Cole’s 90 percent,” Richland coach Earl Streufert said of who he wants shooting late free throws. “We set it up so that hopefully (Northrop) would have those touches at the end of the game, and he did his job well.”
Richland led 39-38 with two minutes to go in the third quarter when Kurtz and 7-foot-3 forward Riley Sorn went on a 7-0 run to put the Bombers up by eight. A layup by LC’s Cameron Underwood cut that advantage to six heading into the final period.
The Tigers worked to chip away at the deficit for most of the fourth quarter, when a 3-pointer by Naje Smith cut the Richland advantage to 64-62 with under 30 seconds left.
Northrop got the inbounds pass and was fouled immediately. His first free throw rattled about the rim — about five times, by Coach Streufert’s count — before dropping. The second was nothing but net to make it 66-62 with 24 seconds to go.
Northrop fessed up to a few nerves but added that “during practice we play games all the time where we have to finish with free throws, or else we have to run a whole bunch. So I felt pretty good about making them.”
His next set of free throws dropped with 10 seconds on the clock to make it 68-64, and a defensive stand by the Bombers allowed Garrett Streufert’s free throws with three seconds to go let the Bombers take a six-point lead that sealed the win.
Smith hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer that got the Tigers back within a possession, but it was academic. The shot seemed a fitting end to a game where LC showed fight, refused to go away, but ultimately fell short.
“They’re an excellent team, and coach (Jim) Redmon is an excellent coach,” Streufert said. “They present all kinds of problems for you, because they’ve always got five guys on the court that can score. They’re long, athletic and they know how to make plays.
“We gave them some possessions late that allowed them to hang on, and that’s just youth and inexperience. But I liked our toughness and our grit.”
Richland led by as many as six points in the first half, and only trailed at 4-2, but it took a Kurtz 3-pointer with less than 20 seconds remaining in the first half to give the Bombers a 27-24 lead at the break.
Kurtz finished the first half with a game-high 13 points, and scored eight of the Bombers’ 11 in the second quarter. He missed the playoffs last season because of an illness, and was thrilled he could deliver in his postseason debut.
“It feels so good to come back and be playing in my first actual playoff game, and for it to be a good game,” Kurtz said. “It adds a lot that this is redemption for last year, where we didn’t get to make it to state because I got sick.”
Northrop was the Bombers’ second-leading scorer with 14 points. Sorn was again a monster in the paint as he pulled down a team-high eight boards and had four of the Bombers’ eight blocks.
Smith (17 points, 10 rebounds), Dedrick Pakootas (16 points), Anthony Smith (14 points) and Cameron Underwood (nine points and 12 rebounds) all had big games for the Tigers.
On Saturday, Richland hosted Ferris in a second-round game. The Bombers fell to the Saxons 69-56 on Dec. 2, and they were excited at the opportunity to exact some revenge.
“We didn’t make a single 3 when we played Ferris the first time, and we still hung around with them,” Northrop said.
The Bombers shot 22 of 50 (44 percent) overall and 7 of 20 (35 percent) from 3 on Friday.
Richland fell to all of the top three GSL 4A teams — Gonzaga Prep, Ferris and Central Valley — in the regular season, but Streufert said his team has shown great improvement since those December defeats.
“We communicate better, and you saw that our defense is better,” he said. “I also think that Riley Sorn’s emergence on both ends of the floor has made us leaps and bounds better than we were two months ago.”
Lewis and Clark played at Chiawana in a loser-out game.
LEWIS & CLARK: Underwood 9, Effenberger, Damon 5, Naje Smith 17, Dedrick Pakootas 16, Anthony Smith 14, Duncan 6. Totals: 26-64 7-14 67.
RICHLAND: Wagar 2, Sanderson 9, Christensen, Kump, Tyler Kurtz 28, Cole Northrop 14, Streufert 8, Sorn 9. Totals: 22-50 19-26 70.
Lewis & Clark
Highlights — LC, Cameron Underwood 12 rebs, 3 asts; Smith 10 rebs; Cameron Duncan 3 asts. R, Cody Sanderson 8 rebs, 4 asts; Kurtz 7 rebs, 2 blks; Northrop 2 blks, 7-8 FTs; Riley Sorn 8 rebs, 4 blks.