PASCO -- To win the CBBN, you have to hold home court.
Not an easy task, especially now that Chiawana has established itself as a legitimate first-place team. But the Riverhawks sqeaked out another big win on their floor Saturday, beating defending CBBN 4A district champion Walla Walla 73-69.
They did it with Walla Walla bearing down on them in the final seconds, cutting a 10-point lead to just 71-69 with 15 seconds left.
Chiawana guard Justin Smith helped put the game away with a pair of free throws, giving the Riverhawks just enough breathing room to hold on for the win.
"I thought Walla Walla took it to us in every facet, tonight. They came in focused and made us earn everything we got," said Chiawana coach Chad Herron.
Still, Herron had to be pleased that his squad is responding to the challenge of being in the drivers seat, taking an opponent's best shot and still coming up with a 'W'.
"If you want to be anywhere, it's first place," Herron said. "We would not have won this game last year."
Buddy Walter came up big in the clutch for Chiawana, recording team highs with 20 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three steals.
The 6-foot senior saved some of his best work for the fourth quarter, swooping into the lane for a smooth layin with 5:58 left to give the Riverhawks a 62-57 lead. Two minutes later, he attacked from the left wing, soaring over a pair of defenders for a jumper off the glass that made it 68-61.
"With Buddy's length and his jump, we know he can get to the hole any time he wants to," Herron said.
But Walla Walla guard Alex Ceron was answering right back, scoring a season-high 20 points, including the Blue Devils' final six points of the night. His reverse layin off a backdoor cut the lead to 71-69 with just 15 seconds left.
"They're the No. 1 team, and we knew the odds were against us," Ceron said. "We set the bar pretty high for ourselves, but they answered back."
The Blue Devils started strong, opening up a 15-7 lead in the first six minutes of the game thanks to eight points from Moe Handcox, who had 11 during the quarter and 13 overall.
Walla Walla held the lead until 5:42 of the third quarter, when Miquiyah Zamora took an inbounds pass from Jordan Downing and scored inside for a 43-42 lead -- the Riverhawks' first of the game.
"We came out not as focused as we normally do, and they're a team that plays to the opposition. The bigger the game, the bigger they play," Walter said.
The Blue Devils came in with an eye on Smith -- the CBBN's leading scorer at 19 points a game -- but the Riverhawks began finding some other scoring options. Smith finished with 17 points -- 11 of them in the second half -- but Downing added 10 points, Zamora had 11 and Kyler DeWitt chipped in eight.
Five players hit 3-pointers for Chiawana.
"They've got a lot of weapons," Walla Walla coach John Golden said. "We've been in this situation before, but our margin for error is pretty slim."
Another player who stood out for the Riverhawks was Coleman Knight, who scored just two points but blocked five shots on defense and found ways to get his teammates open on offense.
"Coleman was huge on defense, and on offense he was setting screens and doing a lot to help us out," Walter said.
Rob Ferenz added 14 points for Walla Walla.
WALLA WALLA -- Alex Ceron 20, Handcox 13, Alden 10, Ferenz 14, Watson 9, Toon, Torres, Peasley, Eggers, Campeau, Dunovant 3. Totals 27-58 10-14 73.
CHIAWANA -- Downing 10, Buddy Walter 20, Smith 17, Zamora 11, Knight 4, Lopaya, Graff 3, Adamson, DeWitt 8. Totals 29-54 8-13 69.
Walla Walla 20 20 13 16 -- 73
Chiawana 16 21 21 15 -- 69
Highlights -- Rebounds: WW 31 (Handcox 6), C 31 (Walter 9); Turnovers: WW 14, C 11; 3-pointers: WW 5-14 (Handcox 3), C 7-15 (DeWitt 2, Zamora 2); Walter 3 steals, 5 assists; Handcox 3 steals.