The Lions' junior finished with 24 points and 15 rebounds as Bellarmine Prep defeated Snohomish 75-54 Friday Night at Kent Meridian High School and prevented the Panthers from getting to the state tournament.
Due to some rearranging by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association, the round of 16 is now the "regional" round, and not part of the state tournament.
Bellarmine Prep was playing like it was a state championship game.
The Lions played hard and fast right from the start. Bellarmine Prep continuously worked the ball in the paint, looking for Liufau, a 6-foot, 4-inch forward who averages 11 points per game according to the game's program.
"They did a great job," said Snohomish head coach Len Bone. "We had a tough time guarding them. They played really well offensively and defensively."
David Smith added 18 points for the Lions – all in the second half – and 6-8 forward Lucas Meikle scored 14 points while grabbing six rebounds.
Bellarmine Prep (23-3 overall) advanced to the state tournament at the Tacoma Dome next week. The Lions' win ended Snohomish's season, and the high school careers of the five Panther seniors, including guard Luke Hamlin.
Hamlin, who averages 24 points per game, finished his final contest wearing a Snohomish jersey with a game-high 28 points – including five 3-pointers. Hamlin had 13 of the Panthers' 18 points at halftime, and helped spark a run after the break where Snohomish hit four 3-pointers in a row to get to within 10 points.
But that's as close as the Panthers got as Bellarmine Prep continued to rack up points and rebounds. The Lions settled down defensively, and ended up matching Snohomish's 21 third-quarter points.
"We knew they were big," Hamlin said. "We knew all game they were going to go inside. We didn't execute defensively."
The Lions were just as impressive on defense as they were on offense. The Lions forced Snohomish into tough, well-guarded shots -- a contributing factor in the second quarter, when Bellarmine Prep outscored Snohomish 20-8.
"We didn't shoot real well and part of that's due to them," Bone said. "They're not gonna be an easy game for anybody."
Four of the five starters for Snohomish were seniors. Kevin Yates and Russel Crippen scored nine and eight points respectively for Snohomish. Crippen also grabbed eight rebounds. The Panthers other two seniors, Gabe Reichenberger and Darian Caldwell, also saw significant minutes.
Hamlin, who had a line of people waiting to hug him after the game, said his senior year was his favorite one at Snohomish.
"Of the four years, this was the best," he said. "We never expected to get where we are. It was a great season."
As Hamlin's coach looked back on the season, Bone said he appreciated the way his players listened while he coached and the effort they put forward.
"I love these guys," Bone said. "They were great to be around."
When asked if he had a favorite moment of the season Bone said he did: the whole thing.
"I think the highlight for me was just spending the season with them," he said. "I always enjoyed our practices together and our games together."
At Kent Meridian High School
Snohomish 10 8 21 15 -- 54
Bellarmine Prep 15 20 21 19 -- 75
Snohomish--Yates 9, Hamlin 28, Stewart 2, Crippen 8, Reichenberger 2, Bauska 0, Baird 3, Carlson 0, Kane 0, Harris 2, Caldwell 0. Bellarmine Prep--Bordeaux 0, Flynn 10, Smith 18, Hollyoak 0, Jensen 7, Hickman 0, Jackson 2, Liufau 24, Salazar 0, Wolf 0, Meikle 14, Morton 0. 3-point goals--Yates 2, Hamlin 5, Crippen 2, Baird 1, Smith 3, Jensen 2. Records--Snohomish 17-7 overall. Bellarmine Prep 23-3.
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