BELLEVUE — The tears on Arlington boys basketball coach Nick Brown’s face Tuesday night spoke volumes.
The Eagles’ dramatic 56-51 victory over Newport in a 4A Kingco-WesCo play-in game wasn’t just a big win. It was the biggest win for Arlington boys basketball in 38 years, and the culmi
nation of a plan Brown set in motion when he took over as head coach five years ago.
The victory in front of a raucous crowd in a packed Newport gymnasium sends Arlington to its first state regional appearance since 1973 when it was a Class 3A school. The Eagles now play Kentridge in a first-
round regional game at 5:45 p.m. Friday at Jackson High School.
“This group has been through so much in the last four years,” Brown said. “We’ve been knocking on the door and we’ve had a lot of games like this go the other way. But these guys believed what I was telling them, believed in themselves and the heart that they showed tonight, that’s where the emotion comes from.”
“There’s been so many Arlington teams through the years that say, ‘We should have done that,’” said senior Eric Carlson, who led the Eagles with 18 points. “We made the decision that we didn’t want to be one of those teams.”
The tenacity and clutch play down the stretch showed that this was an Arlington (19-7) team that had been there, done that, and expected more of itself. The Eagles trailed by five points with less than 2½ minutes to play, but while Newport (16-9) went cold down the stretch, Arlington maintained its composure and hit some big shots. And it was no surprise that it was Carlson and fellow senior leader Zach Cooper who made the biggest buckets.
Down 48-45 with 2:20 to go, reserve Terry Dawn scored on a layup. After a missed Newport free throw, Carlson controlled the ball on the left wing, dribbled, spun into the key and made a leaning jump shot to give the Eagles their first lead since the second quarter.
After another missed shot by the Knights, Cooper stepped to the line and made a pair of free throws to make it a three-point game. Cooper then controlled an errant Newport pass and made two more free throws for a 53-48 lead.
Newport’s Cole Wiper responded with his seventh 3-pointer of the game to make it 53-51 with 20 seconds to go, but Carlson made two free throws and Wiper’s 3-point attempt missed.
“It goes back to when I was a kid in my cul-de-sac,” said Cooper, who had 14 points, 10 in the second half. “I used to practice taking big shots then, so I just love having the ball in those situations.”
Brown said he wasn’t nervous at the end of the game. In fact, he’d been preparing for this situation since this group of seniors were freshmen. It was then that Brown decided to accelerate their development by moving them up from the freshman team to higher, more challenging levels.
“This group has been down this road before,” Brown said. “They have always believed they were going to win.”
Arlington made four 3-pointers in the first quarter, including two by senior Griffin Ginnis, to take a 20-8 lead before Wiper took over in the second quarter. Wiper made three of his 3-pointers then, sending Newport into the locker room ahead 31-26 as the Eagles managed just one field goal in the final seven minutes of the quarter.
“I told them there is no magic formula, we just need to defend and rebound,” Brown said. “I felt we were getting manhandled and I just told them that this is it, it’s all about who has the most guts and heart.”
Arlington rallied to tie the score at 40 by the end of the third quarter, but the Knights got the advantage back to 48-43 in the fourth. Then the Eagles stepped up and made the biggest plays when they counted the most.
“We talked about the last few years we’ve had this glass ceiling that we’ve been tapping on,” Carlson said. “This year we finally punched through it.”
“For us to make such a big jump from where we were, we thought this was the group that would do it,” Cooper said. “And we went out and did it.”
At Newport H.S.
Arlington 20 6 14 16 — 56
Newport 13 18 9 11 — 51
Arlington—Carlson 18, Cooper 14, Dawn 8, Cummings 0, Ginnis 13, Goheen 0, Brummel 2, Ladines 0, Petersen 1. Newport—Brown 4, Fink 0, Caraway 1, Wiper 21, McKinnon 2, Dotson 13, Sahlinger 4, Fowler 6. 3-point goals—Ginnis 2, Cooper 2, Carlson 1, Dawn 1, Wiper 7, Fowler 1. Records—Arlington 19-7 overall. Newport 16-9.