VIDEO: Riley Sorn breaks down Richland’s first meeting with Gonzaga Prep
Teams learn a lot more from their losses than their wins, but Friday night’s defeat was still a tough pill to swallow for the Richland High School boys basketball team.
The Bombers put together several late rallies, but couldn’t muster enough to overcome the top-ranked Gonzaga Prep Bullpups, falling 56-53 in a District 8 Class 4A championship game at the Spokane Arena that featured two of the state’s three remaining unbeaten teams in the classification.
“If you approach this loss as some monumental defeat, you’re not a very good coach,” Richland coach Earl Streufert said. “We played ourselves into a chance to play against a really, really good team, we’re a really good team. They were better defensively than we were offensively.”
It was the fourth time in the past two seasons the Bullpups topped the Bombers, and the second straight time it happened in the district title game. Most of the usual suspects were to blame for Prep, as Gonzaga University-commit Anton Watson tied for the game high with 19 points, and Jamaari Jones finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds.
That familiarity will likely only grow as the teams appear to be on a collision course to meet again in the state tournament beginning Feb. 28 at the Tacoma Dome.
“That’s why I’ve got a smile on my face,” Richland senior center Riley Sorn said. “I’m pretty confident we’ll meet again ... and we really didn’t play a very good game, and I know if we come back and play them again, it’s going to be a different story. So I’m just excited for the next couple weeks.”
Given the Bullpups’ athleticism and reputation for driving the lane, Sorn — the MCC Player of the Year — had to be at his best to give the Bombers a chance, and he responded by swatting away a half-dozen shots on defense and matching Watson’s 19 points on offense.
“We were focusing on that for the last week of practice pretty much. They can shoot and make shots, but really, they like to drive it,” Sorn said. “So the focus was, I had to have good back-side on Anton, and I pretty much have to help everyone out because they’re so strong on those drives.”
Cole Northrop added 16 points for Richland.
“Cole made a jump-hook, which, I haven’t seen him make a jump-hook, ever,” Streufert said. “Good athletes do that, and what a great shot for him.”
The Bullpups kept trying to pull away in the fourth quarter but the Bombers seemed to always have a way to draw back within a possession. They trailed 51-49 with 1:24 to play, then 56-53 with 14 seconds left, but some made free throws by Gonzaga Prep — coupled with some offensive rebounds on missed free throws — allowed it to hold on for the district title.
Watson got one of those rebounds with 23 seconds remaining after Sam Lockett missed the front end of a one-and-one. Sorn was lined up across from Watson on the shot, as opposed to next to him, which Streufert admitted was a mistake.
“That was so dumb. The coaching staff, we totally screwed that up,” he said. “We didn’t look down there to see that Riley isn’t matched up on Anton, that’s just on me. That was stupid.
“That never should have happened. And maybe he (Watson) still would’ve gotten it, but he would have had to get it over 7-4.”
Frustrations like that were common for the Bombers in suffering their first loss of the season, but it seems like this game could be a means to an even greater end.
“We have a bunch of those regional trophies in our trophy case, and we’re chasing something more than that. Our guys have to understand that, we have to get better,” Streufert said. “And I’m not sugar-coating it, I hate losing. Frick, I hate losing. But, I will say that our guys competed to the very end when we didn’t play very good offense.”
Richland was held to its lowest point total of the season. The previous low was 66 against Orem at the Great Western Shootout in Utah. ... The Bombers made all 11 of the free throws they attempted.
Prep (23-0) entered the night as the top-ranked team in the state’s 4A RPI and Richland (22-1) was at No. 4. Even with the loss, the Bombers’ rating will likely go up because of the Bullpups’ record.
Because of this, both teams are all but guaranteed to host regional games next weekend where the winner will go to the state quarterfinals and the loser will play in the Round of 12, still at the Tacoma Dome.
RICHLAND: Wagar 5, Sanderson 8, Streufert 5, Mitchell, Cole Northrop 16, Riley Sorn 19. Totals: 19-49 11-11 53.
GONZAGA PREP: Parola 5, Culp 2, Liam Lloyd 11, Lockett 4, Jamaari Jones 15, Anton Watson 19, Drynan. Totals: 21-59 11-16 56.
Highlights — GP, Sam Lockett 4 stl; Jones 14 reb; Watson 8x10FT. R, Garrett Streufert 8 reb, 3 ast; Northrop 6x6FT; Sorn 8 reb, 6blk, 5x5FT.