RICHLAND — Playoff comebacks are fairly routine. This one was rare.
As far as playoff upsets go, you're likely to see a handful of them every basketball season.
But any fan lucky enough to be in the stands Friday night at Hanford High School might never again see anything like No. 6 seed Southridge's 64-61 win over the No. 3-seeded Falcons in the first round of the CBBN 3A district playoffs.
By the way, Rocky Balboa called. He wants to know how the Suns overcame a 17-point deficit on the road to a team that beat them by double digits in the same gym in early January.
"I think our guys believe in each other," Southridge coach Jason DeVere said. "I told them if you learned anything this season, you know you have to earn what you get. We're a true testament to that.
"We earned a win tonight."
The Suns (8-14) will visit second-ranked Kamiakin (19-1) at 7 p.m. today in Kennewick. The Braves swept the season series, but if Southridge can win under these circumstances, who knows what the Suns are capable of against the CBBN 3A champs?
"No one expected this," said Southridge guard Matt Mendenhall, who led all scorers with 19 points. "I'm sure no one is going to expect us to win" against Kamiakin.
Hanford led 16-10 after one quarter and built that lead to 33-16 at halftime before the Suns finally woke up. Southridge began scrapping back in the third quarter, as Mendenhall drilled back-to-back 3s and Nick Mandell added another during an 18-4 run that cut the Falcons' lead to 40-35.
But the Falcons appeared to regain control to begin the fourth quarter when Colin Serkowski fueled an 8-3 run to push the lead back to 54-42 with 6:07 left in the game.
Mendenhall scored 11 points in the second half, including four in the final minute, and Garrett Willard scored all seven of his points in the fourth quarter to help push the Suns over the top.
"This game was over in the first half. We were completely down," Willard said. "But coach told us we can't give up. We've been in this position many times."
Willard drilled a 3-pointer from the left corner with 3:26 left in the game to make it 56-52, then stole the ball and drained a pair of free throws two minutes later to give Southridge its first lead since the first quarter at 58-57 with 1:22 left.
The teams traded the lead six times in the final two minutes, and Jalen Watson canned two free throws to give Hanford a 61-60 lead with 53 seconds left. But Willard, a 6-foot-2 senior forward, saved his biggest moment for the end.
Mendenhall missed a jump shot, but Willard was in position to grab the offensive rebound and scored the putback for a 62-61 lead.
"That was huge for Willie. He didn't start off the season strong, so this couldn't be better for him," DeVere said. "Mendenhall made some huge steals for us and got the offense going. He also came out with a purpose on defense in the second half.
"But we had all 10 guys contribute."
Joe Douglas was a warrior inside for Hanford, finishing with 17 points, 16 rebounds and three blocks. He got the call on the Falcons' final possession, grabbing a pass on the low block and dribbling in against a double team. He went up strong for a shot that glanced off the rim, then looked for a foul call that never came.
Henry Wyborne grabbed the rebound and tossed it to Mendenhall, who hit two more free throws after being fouled to make it 64-61.
"It felt like I was fouled, but the refs didn't call it," said Douglas, who did not put the loss on the officials. He knew his team should have put this game away earlier.
"It's very disappointing. We had a big lead at the half and then just sat around on defense," he said. "We should have won. I have to remember what I need to work on and do everything in my power to make sure it doesn't happen again."
Bear Braich got one last look at a potential game-tying 3-pointer with a half a tick left. The senior guard hit three treys in the first half and had 17 points.
In a game like this, there was always room for another miracle.
But it wasn't meant to be. Braich's shot glanced off the rim, and the Falcons' dream of a playoff run was over.
"This has got to be the most dissapointing loss in my 17 years as coach," said Hanford coach Paul Mayer. "We played such good defense in the first half. Everything was contested. For some reason we got caught flat-footed.
"I have a saying: Bad things happen to teams and players that stand around."
SOUTHRIDGE -- Mazzei 2, Matt Mendenhall 19, Willard 7, Brad Scott 16, Mandell 3, Hayes 9, Wyborne 4, Molt 2, Vorheis 2. Totals 22-66 14-19 64.
HANFORD -- Jones 8, Bear Braich 17, DeVine, Watson 5, Joe Douglas 17, Serkowski 12, Sutey 2, Dobken. Totals 26-54 6-11 61.
Southridge 10 6 23 24 -- 64
Hanford 16 17 13 15 -- 61
Highlights -- Rebounds: SR 34 (Scott 12), H 34 (Douglas 16); 3-pointers: SR 6 (Mendenhall 4), H 3 (Braich 3); Turnovers: SR 10, H 17; Watson 5 assists; Douglas 3 blocks.