SPOKANE -- Case Rada has seen his share of tough losses. He's also learned how to put them in the past.
As soon as the 6-foot-2 senior guard walked out of the Kamiakin locker room, he had all but forgotten about the Braves' heartbreaking 44-43 loss to North Central in the 3A state regional tournament at Spokane Falls Community College.
"It was tough, but we're over it now. The game is over," Rada said solemnly after almost single-handedly carrying the team in the final quarter. He scored eight of his game-high 19 points in the fourth quarter, including a go-ahead 18-footer with six seconds remaining to put Kamiakin up 43-42.
"Yeah, we're upset, but we've got to flush this one and move on," he said.
But in the end it was another senior guard -- the Indians' Gunnar Swager -- who had the final word. Swager took the inbounds pass from Aaron Antoine at midcourt with five seconds left and dribbled towards the Kamiakin basket. He swooped down the right side of the key, splitting a pair of defenders, and went up for a layin.
The ball kissed softly off the glass and around the back rim before dipping through the net. Seconds later, Swager was surrounded by a mass of happy teammates and North Central students who had swarmed the court.
"We had just five seconds left, and I knew we had to get a shot off. I saw I had an opportunity, so I put it off the backboard like I always have," Swager said. "We knew we had to play hard. Case is a really good player."
But Rada couldn't do it on his own. Junior post Justin Pedley was the only other Kamiakin player in double figures with 12 points. The rest of the lineup combined for just 12 points.
"We didn't get the ball inside enough, and that's gotta be on me," said Braves coach Brian Meneely.
Kamiakin (21-2) will face Mercer Island (21-5) at 3 p.m. today at Spokane Falls CC to decide who will advance to the 3A state tournament and who will go home. The Islanders are a much bigger opponent, but they've got some guards who can shoot, too.
"There are just 12 basketball teams left, and there are no bad basketball teams," Meneely said. "We have to realize our season is not over. Just because we had a loss, we're not done. It gives us an opportunity to show how far we've come."
The Braves got off to a greaat start against the Indians, who struggled inside against Garrett Anderson, Zach En'Wezoh and Justin Pedley, who combined for eight offensive rebounds in the first half. With its strong play inside, Kamiakin took a 27-17 halftime lead. The Braves weren't shooting particularly well, but if they could keep up their rebounding edge, they were in control.
But North Central came out in a 3-2 zone in the second half that limited the Braves' second chances and forced them to shoot from outside. Therein lay the problem for Kamiakin, which shot 7-for-26 (27 percent) in the second half and 17-for-53 (32 percent) for the game.
"We just didn't make shots," said Rada, who put the onus on himself to make big shots. Kamiakin scored just 16 points in the second half, and Rada had 10 of them.
He hit a 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down to give Kamiakin a 36-32 lead with 5:40 left to play. Jonathan Smith scored on a scoop shot in the lane to cap an 8-2 run two minutes later to give the Indians their first lead of the game at 40-38 with 3:22 left.
Rada answered back with a steal at midcourt, driving in for the bucket and the foul. He hit it to put the Braves back on top 41-40 with 1:43 left.
"I just knew we needed some buckets," Rada said. "We were feeling comfortable, and we had the lead."
After Swager scored in the lane, Rada put Kamiakin ahead one last time with a pull-up 18-footer to make it 43-42.
That set up Swager's game-winner.
""It was disappointing to see them get a layup at the end. Our goal was to force two passes," Meneely said. "I thought (North Central) did a really nice job in the third quarter. They really scrapped. We just gave them too many layins."
NORTH CENTRAL -- Antoine 9, Gunnar Swager 13, Degon 4, Hill 12, Smith 6, Pelton, McDuffie, Hollister. Totals 17-48 9-13 44.
KAMIAKIN -- Case Rada 19, Fletcher 2, Holle 2, Anderson 2, Pedley 12, Hayfield, Hunt, En'Wezoh 6. Totals 17-53 7-8 43.
North Central 9 8 13 14 -- 44
Kamiakin 14 13 6 10 -- 43
Highlights -- Rebounds: NC 27 (Hill 8, Swager 8), K 34 (Anderson 9); Hill 3 blocks, 2 steals; Smith 2 steals; Rada 2 steals; .
Mercer Island 46, Southridge 31
SPOKANE -- The Suns were at a notable size disadvantage with the Islanders' 7-foot center Kaj Sherman on the floor.
But in the end it was shooting that did Southridge in, as Sam Cohn and Derek Newhof combined to hit five 3-pointers and score 31 points as Mercer Island will face North Central for a spot in Thursday's 3A state quarterfinals at the Tacoma Dome.
Both teams started slowly, each shooting under 30 percent in the first quarter for a 6-all tie. The Suns had a strong defensive plan for Sherman, and it was working. He was limited to just one field goal attempt the whole game and had just four points.
But Newhof hit four of his first five shots in the second quarter as the Islanders mounted a 13-3 run and took a 19-9 lead with 1:32 left in the half.
"We knew how to isolate their size. We've got some big guys of our own who know how to bang inside," said Southridge guard Dallin Palmer. "When Newhof started hitting is when they started to pull away. He was my responsibility, but when he hits those shots with a hand in his face, there's not much you can do."
Cohn got into the act in the third quarter, scoring 10 of his 12 points to push Mercer's lead to 36-20. It looked like the game was all but over.
But Matt Mendenhall started the scoring in the fourth quarter with a deep 3-pointer from the left wing that started a 7-0 run and cut the lead to 36-27.
"They always had a fresh body on me, and I wasn't using the screens," said Mendenhall, who went 0-for-5 in the first half but finished with nine points to lead the Suns.
"We battled hard. It just came down to us having no offense," said Southridge coach Jason DeVere. "You can look back at all the missed layups and missed 15-footers, but if you can't score on three straight possessions, you're going to have some problems."
SOUTHRIDGE -- Palmer 2, Jones 2, Matt Mendenhall 9, Porter 8, Scott 6, Molt, Keef 4. Totals 10-40 9-10 31.
MERCER ISLAND -- Emanuels 1, Sam Cohn 16, Sterling 7, Hughes, Sherman 4, Thompson, Newhof 15, Scott, Jackson, Lindquist 1. Totals 16-45 9-16 46.
Southridge 6 5 9 11 -- 31
Mercer Island 6 13 17 10 -- 46
Highlights -- Rebounds: S 28 (Porter 8), MI 37 (Sherman 12); 3-pointers: S 2-17 (Mendenhall, Porter), MI 5-17 (Newhof 3); Turnovers: S 13, MI 10; Steals: S 5 (Jones 2), MI 7 (Sterling 3); Newhof 3 assists.