TACOMA — It would’ve been difficult to script a better ending for the Stanwood boys basketball team’s accomplished senior class.
Senior guard Bryson Kelley hit a game-winning baseline jumper with 4.2 seconds left as the No. 7-seeded Spartans claimed their highest state finish in program history with a 62-61 victory over No. 8-seed Rainier Beach in the Class 3A fourth/sixth-place game Saturday morning in the Tacoma Dome.
The win earned Stanwood (24-4) a fourth-place trophy. The program’s previous best finish was sixth place, which the Spartans have achieved four times (2014, 2002, 2001 and 1976).
That the milestone victory came over perennial powerhouse Rainier Beach — winners of four of the last five 3A state titles — made it even more special.
“We were in a pretty good spot before these (seniors) came in. We had some very good players before that,” Stanwood coach Zach Ward said. “But to have this deep of a class come in and have the success they’ve had — maybe if Stanwood basketball was on the map before, now there’s no doubt that everybody knows where it is and what we’re about. And these guys are the reason why.”
Rainier Beach (22-10) was Stanwood’s fourth Metro League opponent in an eight-day span. The Spartans proved themselves against the juggernaut Seattle-area league, beginning with a hard-fought, seven-point loss to eventual state runner-up Garfield in a Feb. 25 regional.
Then after Thursday’s quarterfinal loss to Nathan Hale — the nation’s top-ranked team according to multiple outlets — Stanwood bounced back with wins over Metro foes Seattle Prep and Rainier Beach to place fourth in a loaded 3A field.
“We’ve played the best in the state the last eight days, and I think we showed that we belong with them,” Ward said. “And to walk out of here with that hardware says a lot about these kids, and not just what they’ve done this week — what they’ve done for the last three or four years, and even before that growing up. Just a special group of kids.”
Saturday’s back-and-forth game featured 10 ties and 16 lead changes, including a go-ahead basket by Beach senior N’Keil Nelson that gave the Vikings a 61-60 edge with 26 seconds left to play.
On the ensuing Stanwood possession, the ball went out of bounds off a Beach player, setting up an inbounds play from the Spartans’ sideline with 7.3 seconds remaining.
Senior guard Cameron Plautz inbounded the ball to an open Kelley, who knocked down the eventual game-winning 15-footer from the right baseline to give Stanwood a one-point lead.
Though Kelley was the Spartans’ fourth-leading scorer this season, Ward said the 6-foot-3 senior was their primary option on the game’s deciding play.
“Bryson wasn’t the guy with the most points (today), but a guy who can catch the ball in that position and who we have confidence in,” Ward said. “That’s his spot. … We figured they’d switch screens and they’d try to take away something over the top, and that’s his area right there.”
After Kelley’s go-ahead jumper, Beach quickly pushed the ball upcourt to junior standout Kevin Porter Jr., who launched a contested 3-pointer at the buzzer. The ball bounced off the rim and fell harmlessly to the floor, sending the Spartans into a euphoric celebration at midcourt.
“It means a lot,” Kelley said of the milestone win. “It’s been our dream for our whole season, and since elementary school, to get a trophy. … We wanted to go down as the best team in Stanwood history.”
“I’ve never wanted to stay in a locker room so long,” Ward said after the game, “just to live it up.”
AJ Martinka led the Spartans’ balanced attack with 13 points. Austin Wilhonen added 12 points, Chase Strieby scored 11 and Quinton Borseth had nine for Stanwood.
Porter Jr., who has offers from several Pac-12 schools according to Scout.com, scored 16 points for Beach. Nelson led the Vikings with 17 points and TiJon Rodde added 14.
Most of Stanwood’s eight seniors are three-year varsity players who have been playing together since elementary school. The class has been instrumental in continuing and building on the program’s recent run of success, which over the last five seasons includes five consecutive state appearances, three Tacoma Dome trips and two state trophies.
“I love these guys,” Wilhonen said of his teammates. “I’m going to miss every moment. Every day, I’m going to wake up and I’m going to miss (not playing) with these guys anymore.
“But,” he added, “I’m excited to come back with all these guys later on and be like, ‘Hey, you guys remember when we beat Beach?’ … Those are the times you’re never going to forget.”
“They’re going to be somewhat looked up at forever,” Ward added. “We’ve got so many little kids in the community that look up to these guys. And older people that look down (to) them, are happy for them and really proud of the way they represent the town and the community. And that’s what it’s about for us.”
Snohomish 46, Lincoln 37
Katie Brandvold hit five 3-pointers and finished with 23 points as the No. 6-seeded Panthers earned a third-place trophy by beating the No. 3-seeded Abes in the 3A girls third/fifth-place game.
Kyra Beckman added 10 points for Snohomish (20-7), which limited Lincoln to nine first-half points. The Abes (21-8) shot just 28.6 percent from the field, including 3 of 22 (13.6 percent) in the first half.
“The kids just kept getting better,” Snohomish coach Ken Roberts said of his young team’s progression throughout the season. “And for a senior like Katie to go out the way she did today — she really carried us on the offensive end.”
The game was a rematch of Snohomish’s 41-39 overtime win over Lincoln in a Feb. 24 state regional.
Kamiakin 66, Lynnwood 64, OT
The No. 7-seeded Braves scored on an overtime buzzer-beater to hand the No. 10-seeded Royals a tough loss in the 3A girls fourth/sixth-place game.
Lynnwood (22-6) battled back from a 15-point first-half deficit, but squandered an eight-point lead in the final 90 seconds of regulation. Kamiakin (25-2) trailed 64-61 deficit in the final minute of overtime, but raillied with a game-tying 3-pointer by Kiley Larsen and a game-winning putback by Chanceler Williams with one second left.
Kelsey Rogers led Lynnwood with 29 points and 14 rebounds, while Kaprice Boston added 20 for the Royals. Kamiakin’s Oumou Toure scored 27 points.
It was the Royals’ third game in as many days that was decided by two points or less. Lynnwood suffered a one-point loss to Bishop Blanchet in Thursday’s quarterfinals and beat Stanwood on a buzzer-beater Friday before Saturday’s last-second defeat.
King’s 55, Lynden Christian 43
YAKIMA — Luke Wicks scored 18 points and Dawson Porcello added 14 as the No. 4-seeded Knights earned a third-place trophy with a 55-43 win over the No. 2-seeded Lyncs in a Class 1A boys third/fifth-place game in the Yakima Valley SunDome.
Chewy Zevenbergen recorded seven points and 11 rebounds for King’s (23-6), which shot 52.6 percent from the field in the second half and limited Lynden Christian (21-7) to 28.8 percent for the game. The Knights pulled in the fourth quarter, using a 10-2 run to push their lead to nine points midway thorugh the final period.
Grant Rubbert scored 11 points for Lynden Christian, which held a 22-19 halftime lead before being outscored 36-21 in the second half.
The game was a rematch of the Lyncs’ overtime win over King’s in a Feb. 10 district semifinal.