It wasn’t the cleanest game the Richland High School boys basketball team has played this season, but it’s tough to complain about a blowout win to make it to the Dome.
No. 11 Richland punched its ticket into the round of 12 with an 84-58 win over No. 14 Moses Lake in regional action Friday at Chiawana High School. It’s the fifth time the Bombers have made it to Tacoma in the past six years.
“I can’t even ... it feels great,” Richland junior guard Ryan Wagar said. “My freshman year we went and it was a great feeling, but now we get a second chance. I can’t believe it; it’s unbelievable.”
The game played out eerily similar to the last time the Bombers and Chiefs met in regionals, when Richland won 83-55 in 2014. Both games were blowouts, but neither felt like it was in hand until the last few minutes.
“It was similar in that the first-half score was pretty close, and we weren’t playing our best,” Richland coach Earl Streufert said. “I felt like it was deja vu. Same locker room. We’re never in (Chiawana’s) locker room except for those two times.
“I think the main thing is you’re playing Moses, and with Moses, (coach) John (Hohman) has those guys ready to play, and they’re not going to make it easy on you and they’re going to make you earn it. In that respect, it didn’t matter which players were on the floor; it’s Richland-Moses, and it’s going to be physical.”
Senior forward Tyler Kurtz scored a game-high 28 points — shooting 9 of 13 from the field and 4 of 6 from 3-point range — to lead Richland on offense, and Wagar had five steals while covering Moses Lake’s leading scorer, junior Zach Phillips, to pace the defense.
“I had to stay on him, I mean he’s a great shooter and he can drive too,” Wagar said of Phillips, who scored 20 points.
Wagar scored all 12 of his points in the second half to help the Bombers pull away late, which Streufert said was critical with the way the Chiefs were defending.
“I think Wagar’s the key,” Streufert said. “I mean, Tyler was solid, scored it great, did everything right. But Wagar’s defense was tough, and he had five (points) in the third quarter, seven in the fourth quarter when we needed it.
“They picked him to be the guy who needed to scored because they were gonna guard the other guys, and he took advantage of it.”
The Bombers couldn’t have dreamed up a much better start to the contest.
Kurtz hit a quick layup on their first possession, then, following a Moses Lake turnover, Cody Sanderson knocked down a 3 from the wing to put Richland up 5-0 after 25 seconds.
Richland never went on a big run in the opening period, but kept Moses Lake from scoring consecutive baskets at any point, which allowed the Bombers to lead 21-9 after the first.
The Bombers were a bit more careless with the ball in the second quarter — they ended the first half with 13 turnovers — and as a result the Chiefs did a nice job of hanging around. But every time Moses Lake seemed to cobble together momentum, Kurtz answered with a 3-pointer or dunk.
The MCC Player of the Year finished the half with a game-high 15 points and was 3 of 4 from deep.
“I was just trying to play hard, not let the score get too close to where we couldn’t play hard,” Kurtz said. “The shots, I guess they were just falling. It was just one of those nights.”
Moses Lake rallied back in the third quarter, using runs of 6-0 and 8-0 to cut the deficit to six points with 5 seconds left in the period. But a 3 at the buzzer by Kurtz dropped at the other end to finish the quarter at 53-44.
Turnovers and poor rebounding were again to blame for Moses Lake creeping back in, as Richland lost the night’s battle on the boards 33-25 and turned it over 20 times to Moses Lake’s 17.
“I think what we need to work on is rebounding and not turning the ball over,” Kurtz said. “We need to do a better job of taking advantage of possession.”
But the Chiefs wouldn’t threaten again, as an 11-2 Bomber run put them up by 16 and into cruise control for the final four minutes. Richland won the fourth quarter 31-14.
The game ended with a 3-pointer by Richland’s Paxton Stevens, who hadn’t appeared in a game since getting injured just before the new year.
Richland will play the loser of No. 6 Curtis vs. No. 3 Davis, at 9 a.m. Wednesday in the round of 12.
MOSES LAKE: Duncan, Kunjara 3, Valdez, Evan Mclean 12, Zach Phillips 20, Gio Walker 13, R.Karstetter 6, Evers, Byers, Alvarado 2, Lindgren, K.Karstetter 2. Totals: 22-66 7-11 58.
RICHLAND: Stevens 3, Ryan Wagar 12, Colby Sanderson 15, Christensen 3, Tyler Kurtz 28, Mitchell, Northrop 8, Streufert 4, Volmer, Riley Sorn 11. Totals: 29-41 17-19 84.
Highlights — ML, Phillps 4x5 3pts. R, Wagar 4 asts, 5 stls; Kurtz 4x6 3pts, 6x6 FTs; Streufert 4 asts.