Earl Streufert was a little nervous heading into the Richland High School boys basketball team’s state tournament opener on Thursday against Kamiak, specifically about stopping Carson Tuttle.
The Texas A&M-Commerce signee and 2017 Wesco 4A Player of the Year holds school scoring records, and famously scored 52 points in a holiday tournament game earlier this season. But with Richland’s senior lock-down defenders Ryan Wagar and Riley Sorn hounding the Kamiak trigger man all afternoon, Tuttle hardly had a chance to get going.
He finished with 14 points, but did it on 4 of 20 shooting. That defensive job was a big reason the No. 4 Bombers cruised to a 72-42 win over the upstart No. 14 Knights, pushing them through to the state semifinals for the second straight year.
“Wags, when he’s dialed in defensively, he’s as good as anybody I’ve coached,” said Streufert, in his 19th year with the Bombers. “He’s just relentless, and he was tonight.
“And guys gave him help in the right spots. Cody Sanderson had a couple key switches on high-ball screens, and Riley did his job, contesting shots and making it hard for other guys.”
While Richland’s seniors provide talent and leadership, Streufert and the rest of the Bombers hope to supply the upperclassmen with something pretty special as well — a fitting send off in their last hurrah in the green and gold.
“The biggest thing for me, and for our guys, is that Ryan and Riley, and Rhet (McCullough) and Obie (Erik Obermeyer) and Carl (Volmer), our seniors, get an opportunity to play in the biggest game possible,” Streufert said. “Whether that’s the semifinal, or you win that one and you’re in the big show. And what a tribute to all those guys have given our program for four years.”
The trip to the Tacoma Dome has been pretty great for the Richland seniors so far. Sorn had 13 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocks against Kamiak, and Wagar nailed 3 of 5 triples in the first half for 11 points in the first 16 minutes, finishing with 13 for the game.
Cole Northrop, a junior, posted the game high with 22 points for Richland, while adding three steals.
That balanced production certainly hasn’t been unusual for the Bombers this season, made possible because of how well they move the ball around on offense, sometimes making six or seven hot-potato passes before taking a wide-open layup or 3-pointer.
“We were trying to get back to that this past week of practice,” Sorn said. “We know when we start playing those tougher teams, those 1-2 passes aren’t going to be there. We have to keep moving it to get the shots that we want.”
That ball movement, in addition to lock-down defense, will be critical for the Bombers moving forward, especially in their semifinal matchup against top-rated and undefeated Gonzaga Prep.
SPEAKING OF GONZAGA PREP
The Bombers and Bullpups have become awfully familiar in recent history, as Friday (tipoff scheduled for 7:15 p.m.) will be their fifth meeting in the past two seasons — more than Richland has seen any other foe (including MCC teams) in the same stretch.
The most recent tilt only fueled the budding rivalry more, with G-Prep winning its fourth straight in the series 56-53 in the District 8 championship game at the Spokane Arena. The Bombers are hoping for some revenge in likely the most meaningful of those five contests.
“I want to play them again real bad, show them what we can do,” Wagar said. “We’re a better team now.”
“We want the undefeated team,” Northrop said of playing Gonzaga Prep. “We’ve gotta make that even.”
The winner of Friday’s semifinal between Richland and G-Prep plays the Federal Way-Lewis and Clark winner at 3 p.m. Saturday in the 4A championship game (to be televised on ROOT Sports). Richland beat then-two-time defending state champion Federal Way in the quarterfinals of last year’s tournament.
The Richland-Prep loser plays the loser of the other semifinal in the third-/fifth-place game at 1 p.m. Saturday.
“We’ve gotta win state. This is our year. It’s the year of the Bombers.” -Riley Sorn
Richland and Gonzaga Prep played in last year’s third-/fifth-place game, with the Bullpups claiming a 64-57 victory. ... Richland is trying to win its third state basketball title in its history, with the last coming in 1979. ... No school has won 4A WIAA state titles in football and boys basketball in the same calendar year. The Richland football team beat Woodinville in the state championship game in December. ... Gonzaga Prep won its lone state title in 2011 and has placed third in the past two tournaments.
RICHLAND 72, KAMIAK 42
KAMIAK: Carson Tuttle 14, Olson 3, Fitzpatrick 2, Leary 2, Sharpe 6, Bueing 4, Powers, Manalo, Meyer 9, Pascual, Overturf, Wuttke 2. Totals: 14-57 10-13 42.
RICHLAND: Ryan Wagar 13, Sanderson 4, Streufert 8, Cole Northrop 22, Riley Sorn 13, Guice 4, Obermeyer, McCullough 2, Mitchell 4, Volmer, Hofstad, Schuster. Totals: 28-54 10-17 72.
Highlights — K, Tuttle 3 stl; Patrick Olson 3 blk. R, Cody Sanderson 4 ast; Garrett Streufert 7 reb, 6 ast; Sorn 14 reb, 8 blk; Wagar 3x5 3pt; Northrop 3x8 3pt, 3 stl.