The pumped-up billing lived up to the hype, but in the end, the reigning 2B state champs proved worthy of their title.
Gonzaga-commit Brock Ravet scored a game-high 28 points and freshman Mason Landdeck added 22 with three 3-pointers as the No. 1 Kittitas/Thorp boys basketball team went on the road Friday to beat No. 15 Tri-Cities Prep 68-60 in a key EWAC contest, handing the Jaguars their first loss of the season in their 11th game.
Despite the loss, TCP heads were high after the game. The team fought hard for 32 minutes even though its top two players — Kobe Singleton and Stefan Geist — were battling illness.
“I don’t think it’s physically possible to play harder than we just did,” Prep coach Mike Conner said. “I’m not only satisfied, I’m thrilled with the effort. But we’ve come to expect that, they play that hard in practice, they play that hard every single day.”
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Singleton, a junior guard, led the Jaguars (10-1, 5-1) in scoring with 23 points, but his work on the defensive end was even more critical. He shadowed Ravet — a junior who is the reigning Class 2B state player of the year and was averaging 29.6 points a night coming in — for nearly the entire game after Bubba Valencia picked up three quick fouls in the first quarter trying to do just that.
“He’s very quick,” Singleton said of Ravet. “But I thought I did a pretty good job. I got kind of winded because it’s so hard to stay in front of him. He’s a really good player, and I have so much respect for him.”
Geist was mostly ineffective early for TCP but caught fire after halftime, scoring 10 points in the third quarter and eight in the fourth to finish with 21 points, four steals and six rebounds.
“First half, I left a lot short, a couple were just in-and-out, and I was feeling really tired so that made my shot short,” Geist said. “The second half I just looked to attack more, go to the basket, not shoot as many jump shots. They started to go in, so that was good.”
The Jaguars never led (or tied), but their effort was relentless in sticking close with the Coyotes the whole way. They parried an 8-0 Kittitas/Thorp run in the middle of the fourth quarter with nine straight of their own to trail 62-56 with 40 seconds left.
Ravet split a pair of free throws with 40 seconds to go, giving TCP a glimmer of hope, but a missed 3-pointer by Valencia with 25 seconds on the clock that was rebounded by Ravet — who was fouled and hit two free throws on the other end to make it 65-56 — would eventually settle it.
“We’re still competing, every loss is going to make us better,” Singleton said. “We’re gonna grow after this, we’re gonna continue to get better, and we’re gonna be ready next time.”
Gassed after running a track meet all night, the Jaguars will have to quickly regroup as they go on the road to face Liberty Christian at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in Richland.
TCP will try to even up the season series — and possibly earn a share of the league title — against the Coyotes (11-1, 6-0) on Feb. 2 in Kittitas. While Conner and his players relish the chance of avenging this loss, their focus is rightfully on the short-term.
“Right now, we’re moving on to Liberty Christian,” Conner said. “We’ve still got a couple weeks to prepare for that one (Kittitas/Thorp). We’ll get ready for Liberty tomorrow, then we’ll get ready for everyone else after that.”
KITTITAS/THORP: Harris 6, Lenihan 4, Mata 2, Brown 5, Mason Landdeck 22, Brock Ravet 28. Totals: not reported.
TRI-CITIES PREP: Kobe Singleton 23, Nelson 7, Valencia, Mercado 7, Stewart 2, Stefan Geist 21, Amato. Totals: 20-58 15-21 60.
Highlights — KT, Landdeck 3 3pts; Ravet 12 FTs. TCP, Singleton 6x8 FTs; Logan Mercado 10 rebs; Max Nelson 2 blks; Geist 6 rebs, 4 stls.