So the Richland High School boys basketball team didn’t get to finish its season with a win at the Tacoma Dome.
That doesn’t take much away from a special campaign that was on the brink of ending early on more than one occasion, and wound up finishing on the final day of the Hardwood Classic with the Bombers posing with some hardware.
“It’s no fun losing, obviously,” Richland senior guard/forward Tyler Kurtz said. “But getting to play your last game in the Dome isn’t a bad way to go out.”
Kea Vargas scored 14 points, Anton Watson had 10 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks, and No. 2 Gonzaga Prep beat No. 11 Richland 64-57 on Saturday in the third/fifth-place game of the 4A state tournament.
A lot of factors contributed to the Bombers (21-7) losing to the Bullpups (25-2) for the third time this season.
For one, Gonzaga Prep is a really good team that, like Richland, was a couple breaks away from winning its semifinal Friday and playing for a state title. Watson and the rest of the Bullpups protected the rim well, making it tough for Richland to feed the ball to 7-foot-3 forward Riley Sorn and let him take the game over.
“I don’t know how many blocks they had today, but it seemed like every time somebody would drive it in, they were either getting swatted or fouled,” Kurtz said.
But as good as G-Prep is and as well as it played, perhaps nothing was working more against Richland than the fatigue associated with playing its fourth game in as many days. Coach Earl Streufert was encouraged with the fire his players showed in the first half, but when the Bombers needed to run and knock down big shots late, they didn’t quite have enough in the tank.
“We were tired,” Sorn said. “Yesterday, everyone’s legs were dead, and today was even worse than that. Everyone was just physically and mentally exhausted from how hard we’ve been playing.”
The best indicator of the fatigue appeared in 3-point shooting. Richland was hot out of the gates, shooting 5 of 11 in the first half, but closed shooting 2 of 7 after halftime. Shooting from the field dropped from 52 percent in the first half to 36 percent in the second.
The streaky shooting in the first half allowed Richland to control the pace. The Bombers rushed out to a 9-2 lead before the Bullpups went on a 13-3 run to lead 15-12 late in the first quarter.
The second quarter was filled with alternating runs as well, and a layup by Sorn with 30 seconds left put Richland up 31-28 at halftime.
“I thought Riley was even better today than he was yesterday,” Streufert said. “Mentally I think he got a little tougher today, and he made some big plays and gave us chances.”
But G-Prep capitalized on a flat start by the Bombers in the second half, going on a 6-0 run to start the third and carrying a 47-41 into the fourth.
Richland went on an 8-3 run at the beginning of the fourth to close within three points with 5:45 to go, but a 5-0 run by G-Prep kept the Bombers at least two possessions away for the rest of the game.
“We had a couple shots there when we were down by six that maybe would have made it a little more interesting,” Streufert said. “But fourth day coming up here, fourth day living out of a hotel, and coming in and playing that hard for that long, I’ve got nothing but praise for these guys.”
Richland’s Colby Christensen, a senior guard, capped the scoring with a layup in the final seconds.
Cole Northrop had 15 points to lead the Bombers, and Cody Sanderson and Ryan Wagar each had 12. All three players hit a pair of 3-pointers.
“These guys are phenomenal,” Streufert said. “If you asked me to pick a handful of guys to take to the state tournament, I’d wanna take these guys. They’re competitive, they’re emotional, they buy in, they’re smart. They’re everything that you want when you’re coaching. And you don’t always get that.
“These guys bring that to the table every day. They’re super competitive and they want to win, but they take care of each other, they share the basketball, they did everything we asked them to do.
RILEY SORN’S BLOCK PARTY
Sorn entered the game needing five blocks to tie the 4A tournament record of 25 set by Ferris’ DeAngelo Casto in 2008. He finished with 10 to breeze past the record mark, and the WIAA rewarded him with a special game ball to celebrate the achievement.
“It’s pretty cool,” Sorn said. “I came into this and saw that the record was 25, and apparently I can beat that. I think it’s pretty cool that I got awarded for that.”
Sorn averaged around four blocks per game this season, and had 14 when Richland lost to Gonzaga Prep in triple overtime in the sub-regional championship game.
He had nine points and a team-high six rebounds on Saturday.
RICHLAND: Stevens, Ryan Wagar 12, Cody Sanderson 12, Christensen 4, Kump, Kurtz 2, Cole Northrop 15, Streufert 3, Volmer, Sorn 9. Totals: 21-48 8-11 57.
GONZAGA PREP: Kea Vargas 14, Sestero, Culp 8, Lockett 8, Byrd 5, Anton Watson 10, Eugenio 6, Jamaari Jones 13. Totals: 26-62 8-14 64.
Highlights — R, Garrett Streufert 3 asts; Riley Sorn 10 blks. GP, Vargas 3 asts; Watson 11 rebs, 4 blks, 3 stls.