Lyle/Wishram head coach Scott Myers knew going into last Friday’s state play-in game that his Cougars were a long shot to make it to the final eight of the WIAA’s first Class 1B Hardwood Classic set for March 3-5 in Spokane.
For starters, Lyle/Wishram, as the fourth-seeded team, had to win two games at the Walla Walla regional to qualify for the final eight. Second, the Cougars drew the Cusick Panthers, ranked fifth in the last Associated Press poll taken before the state playoffs, as their first-round opponent. Finally, awaiting the winner of Friday’s elimination game was either No. 3 Rosalia or No. 1 Almira/Coulee-Hartline for a trip to Spokane.
For the Cougars last Friday, it was all about extending the season another day. “I told our kids, this is our March Madness, and upsets happen all the time during March Madness,” Myers said in a pre-game chat. “So, this is our time, one game at a time; we’ll see if we’re up to the challenge.”
The loser-out contest started badly for Lyle/Wishram and never got better as the Cougars endured a 65-31 season-ending defeat.
Cusick, the third seed, led from start to finish as it scored the first nine points—six by its leading scorer, 6-foot-3 senior forward Tyler Edwards, including a breakaway two-handed dunk at the 5:45 mark for the game’s first basket—and held Lyle/Wishram scoreless until senior forward Henry Matai laid one in off an assist from junior guard Trey Kitchens with about a minute left in the opening quarter.
The Panthers led, 11-2, after one quarter, gave up a layin to Matai to open the second quarter, then pulled away with a 14-0 run that left the Cougars trailing, 25-4, with under 3 minutes remaining in the first half.
Lyle/Wishram (15-9) closed out the half with an encouraging 7-3 surge, however, getting layins by Matai and senior forward Jorge Gutierrez, and a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Justin Mills just before the horn to cut their deficit to 28-11.
At the outset of the third quarter, though, Cusick dashed whatever comeback Lyle/Wishram hoped to put together. The Panthers (19-7) scored the first seven points to stretch their lead to 35-11.
A shortage of shot attempts hindered the Cougars all night, and the last two quarters were no different from the first two. Cusick controlled most of the rebounds (51 to L/W’s 33), thanks to a considerable size advantage in the forward positions, and finished with 24 offensive boards and 14 second-chance points.
Loose ball-handling also cost Lyle/Wishram. In all, the Cougars turned the ball over 26 times; Cusick, which recorded 15 steals, scored 33 points off L/W turnovers.
WIAA 2011 HARDWOOD CLASSIC
CLASS 1B BOYS BASKETBALL
Friday, Feb. 25, at Walla Walla HS
LYLE/WISHRAM COUGARS 31 (2-9-10-10) — Jorge Gutierrez 8, Henry Matai 8, Ricky Titcomb 4, Johnathan VonAhn 4, Francisco Martinez 4, Justin Mills 3, Darnell Luke 0, Trey Kitchens 0, Ricky Wolff 0, Dustin Mutch 0, Jacob Armour 0, John Stephens 0. FGs: (2) 13/41, 31.7% (Matai 4/11, Gutierrez 4/14, Titcomb 2/2); (3) 1/4, 25.0% (Mills 1/2). FTs: 0/0, 0.0%. Rebounds: 33/7 off (Matai 7/1, VonAhn 4/1, Gutierrez 4/0, Kitchens 3/1, Mutch 2/2). Assists: 7 (Martinez 2, Mills 2). Blocked shots: 4 (Titcomb 2, VonAhn 2). Second-chance points: 2. Points off turnovers: 7. Points in paint: 16. Bench points: 7. Biggest lead: 0 (0-0). Longest run: 5-0 (28-6 to 28-11) Steals: 4 (Kitchens, Matai, Mills, Titcomb). Turnovers: 26. Fouls: 9.
CUSICK PANTHERS 65 (11-17-17-20) — Tyler Edwards 24, Derrick Bluff 15, Louie Bluff 7, Zack Chantry 7, Ryan Sample 3, Marshal Rankin 2, Johnny Andrews 2, Roma Chantry 2, John Cutshall 2, Shem Norton 1. FGs: (2) 15/35, 42.9% (Edwards 8/11); (3) 6/19, 31.6% (D. Bluff 3/8). FTs: 5/12, 41.7% (Edwards 3/4). Rebounds: 51/24 off. (L. Bluff, 19/7, Edwards 11/5). Assists: 6 (L. Bluff 4). Blocked shots: 6 (L. Bluff 3, Andrews 2). Second-chance points: 14. Points off turnovers: 33. Points in paint: 32. Bench points: 15. Biggest lead: 36 (59-23). Longest run: 14-0 (11-4 to 25-4). Steals: 15 (D. Bluff 5). Turnovers: 13. Fouls: 8.