TACOMA — Seth Alden hit a few big shots during the season for the Walla Walla boys.
But none had quite the importance of Wednesday’s pair of jumpers late in the third quarter of the Blue Devils’ 4A state opener against Lincoln.
The sophomore guard gave Wa-Hi the lead for good, first with a 12-footer from the left baseline, then a 3-pointer from the left corner, and the Blue Devils went on to a 55-49 victory over the West Central District champions.
“This one was a little bigger game,” Alden said, smiling, after being reminded of his clutch trey that helped Wa-Hi win a midseason game at Chiawana. “Those points were able to get us over the hump, and we were able to maintain the lead the rest of the game.”
Gary Winston scored a game-high 18 points, and Michael Weisner added 16 points, eight rebounds, four steals and three blocked shots as Walla Walla (23-5) advanced to play Wilson in the quarterfinals at 7 p.m. today.
“This was a big win,” said Wa-Hi coach John Golden. “Now, we can take a deep breath and see what we’ve got tomorrow.”
Wa-Hi struggled on offense in the first half, shooting just 27 percent (6-of-22), and trailed 20-18 at halftime.
Alden’s back-to-back baskets put Walla Walla ahead 37-32 with a minute to go in the third, and the Blue Devils pushed their lead to 50-41 with 2 minutes left on a layup by Weisner off an Alden assist.
Lincoln (18-8), which had a 10-game win streak snapped, got within 52-49 with 33.7 seconds left, but Winston hit 3 of 4 free throws to ice the win.
“My jump shot was not falling tonight,” said Winston, the Idaho signee who went just 5-of-12 from the field (0-of-3 from 3-point range). “So I just began attacking the basket and getting to the rack. They pressured out on us so far, it worked out in my favor because I could just go by them.”
Wa-Hi handled Lincoln’s full-court pressure, turning the ball over just 10 times. The Blue Devils forced 21 turnovers and converted them into 29 points.
“We did a good job in our zone keeping them outside,” Golden said. “And we feel pretty good having the ball in Gary’s hands. We did a good job of looking up the court against their press and hitting open guys downcourt.”