Kamiakin High School may or may not have had the best team on the floor in Thursday’s MCC-GSL 3A boys sub-regional championship, but when push came to shove, the Braves just flat-out competed.
The hard-nose mentality earned Kamiakin a 54-49 victory and put them one game away from state.
“Our kids usually aren’t going to be the biggest or the quickest, but they’re always going to show up and compete,” Kamiakin coach Brian Meneely said.
Kamiakin (19-3) will play the SeaKing District 2 No. 7 seed Tuesday in the Tri-Cities in a glue crossover game with a state berth on the line.
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Junior guard Garrett Paxton — named to the All-MCC first team before the game — turned in a performance to remember with a game-high 25 points, just one shy of tying his career best. He was 9 for 16 from the field and also dished a couple assists.
“It was pretty special, but honestly I was just doing whatever the team needed to get the win,” Paxton said.
Senior Koby Bailey only scored two points, but seemed to answer the call whenever the Braves needed someone to step up.
After a back-and-forth first 15 minutes, Kamiakin led 29-25 with less than a minute to go in the half and Shadle Park had the ball. The Highlanders ate some clock before making a drive to the basket, when the ball popped loose and a scramble ensued.
Bailey was the first to dive on it, and was able to call a timeout with 33 seconds on the clock to give Kamiakin possession. The Braves used some nifty passing to find Payton Flynn wide open for a layup to go up by six on the last meaningful touch of the first half.
The steal likely caused a four- or five-point swing on the scoreboard, but an even bigger swing of momentum heading into the locker room. That proved to be vital as Kamiakin scored just 23 second-half points and struggled to get a whole lot going against a stingy Highlander defense led by seniors Andreas Brown (6-foot-5 guard) and Tanner Groves (6-9 forward committed to play for Eastern Washington).
“We were a little bit worried that Andreas was going to take over the game there,” Meneely said. “He got fired up for a few minutes and seemed like he was getting a hand on everything.”
Shadle Park fought to stay alive in the second half, and a layup by Markieth Brown with a little more than a minute to play, and an emphatic block by Groves against a driving Paxton, made it 52-49 with 19.8 seconds on the clock.
That was when Bailey headed to the charity stripe with a chance to — mostly — put the game on ice.
The ball ripped through the net on his two free throws like a peach pit through the Grand Canyon, and Shadle missed a 3-pointer on the other end to seal it.
Andreas Brown didn’t just shine on the defensive end for Shadle Park, he also led the team with 17 points, nine rebounds and six assists.
Shadle Park (17-5) will host Mt. Spokane on Saturday in a loser-out game, with the winner traveling to play the District 2 No. 6 team in the other crossover game.
SHADLE PARK: Andrewas Brown 17, Markieth Brown 14, Leinweber, Kelley 5, Tanner Groves 11, Conway, Howard 2, Krotzer. Totals: 17-44 10-12 49.
KAMIAKIN: Bailey 2, Garrett Paxton 25, Flynn 4, Champ Grayson 10, Isaiah Brimmer 13, Wolf, Nichols, Mohlman. Totals: 21-50 4-5 54.
Highlights — SP, A.Brown 9 rebs, 6 asts, 2 blks, 3 stls. K, Paxton 4 asts; Brimmer 9 rebs, 3 asts; Champ Grayson 4 asts.