KENNEWICK -- It sounds easy enough, game-planning for the scrappy yet vertically challenged Kennewick basketball team.
Keep your cool, run the offense and pound the ball inside.
Above all, patience.
But the Southridge Suns, like others before them, found out Friday night how hard it is to resist the lure of Lions for a full 32 minutes. If not for some big points from a newfound source of offense, they may have been their latest victims as well.
Bryce Leavitt and Luiz Santiago combined to nail six 3-pointers and scored 21 points during Kennewick's furious fourth-quarter rally, but Brad Scott powered home a key three-point play and Southridge hit free throws down the stretch in a 59-56 thriller at the Lions Den.
"We really controlled the style of play for three quarters, three-and-a-half quarters," said Southridge coach Jason DeVere, whose team won its fourth straight and improved to 5-1 in the CBBN 3A, 7-5 overall. "But they did a nice job of coming out and forcing us out of our comfort zone."
Kennewick (3-3, 5-7) had won three of four coming in, two of those coming in the final 30 seconds. Instead, the Lions suffered their third loss by three or fewer points.
"We definitely know that we can play most teams because we've been in some close games this year," said Leavitt, who scored 12 of his team-high 16 points in the fourth quarter. "But we're a little young and we got to figure out how to win some of these games."
Southridge seemed to be comfortably in front after three quarters, leading 42-33 thanks in large part to a 13-0 run in the first and second quarters.
The Suns' length -- 6-foot-6 frontcourt players in Scott and Derek Porter and 6-3 guard Matt Mendenhall -- was giving Kennewick fits with the Lions mired in a halfcourt game.
But Kennewick finally hit its stride in the fourth.
Leavitt opened by sinking three free throws after he was fouled on a 3-point attempt. He canned the next trey he shot, and then Santiago came in off the bench to hit back-to-back bombs.
Southridge was matching baskets -- Porter stepped out for a trey, three of his game-high 19 points, and Mendenhall knocked down three of four free throws. But the pace was quickening, the play loosening up, and the Lions -- trading 3s for the Suns' 2s -- pulled within 52-50 on Leavitt's trey on an inbound play with 2:32 left.
That's when Scott came through. Both Porter and Mendenhall were drawing heavy attention, and Scott found himself isolated on the baseline with Leavitt, who was giving up 3 inches and at least 20 pounds.
Scott powered to the hole, got the contact and the basket. The three-point play gave Southridge the breathing room it needed.
"I just saw that I was open, and we needed a bucket," said Scott, who was averaging 5.5 points a game until scoring 8, 19 and 13 points in his last three.
"I think I have changed the past few weeks," he said. "My confidence is up, I'm making some shots."
Leavitt had one more 3 in his chamber, but Dallin Palmer hit two huge free throws with 10 seconds left to make it a four-point game for the Suns, who withstood Santiago's final 3 in the closing seconds.
The Lions hit 11 of 24 3-pointers, but Southridge took advantage of a 16-for-21 showing at the free-throw line, including 10-of-12 in the fourth quarter.
"They did an excellent job of handling our pressure early on," said Kennewick coach Bradyn Leyde. "But we went back to it and got them to make some mistake, and we hit some shots."
SOUTHRIDGE -- Derek Porter 19, Palmer 5, Jones 6, Mendenhall 14, Scott 13, Molt, Keefe 2. Totals 19-42 16-21 59
KENNEWICK -- Bryce Leavitt 16, Pocasangre 6, Ramos 7, Domach 4, Clinton 4, Plew, Santiago 9, Smith 5, McKenzie, Sordahl 5. Totals 19-51 7-8 56.
Southridge 16 11 15 17 -- 59
Kennewick 14 7 12 23 -- 56