BOTHELL — With the first four words of his postgame interview Saturday, Marysville Pilchuck boys basketball coach Bary Gould summed up the Tomahawks’ regional tournament opponent.
“Mt. Spokane was tough,” Gould said.
Not tough as in simply a good overall team. Gould was speaking in the most literal sense.
“They were tough. Really, really physical,” he said. “The physicality of play was the difference. They are used to playing like that, because that is who they are, and we aren’t used to playing like that.”
The Wildcats attacked the basket, paving their way to the rim with force. They owned the glass and created second-chance opportunities. Marysville Pilchuck toughened as the game went on, but the young Tomahawks couldn’t make pivotal plays down the stretch and saw their season come to an end with a 72-67 loss to Mt. Spokane in a 3A state regional game at North Creek High School in Bothell.
RaeQuan Battle led the Northwest District champions with a game-high 30 points, seven rebounds and three blocks. He scored 14 of MP’s 16 second-quarter points, keeping the Tomahawks (19-5) close during critical moments with big shots. Josiah Gould and Kobe Baumann each scored nine points.
But while Marysville Pilchuck’s offense kept the Tomahawks in the game, MP’s defense, which entering the regional gave up 56.1 points per game, struggled against Mt. Spokane’s many scorers.
Four Wildcats finished in double figures. Freshman forward Tyson Degenhart scored a team-high 21 points, Jerry Twenge recorded 18, JT Smith added 17 and Cole Hattenburg scored 12.
“They had multiple guys on their team that could kind of bully our guys to the hoop,” Bary Gould said. “We responded and adjusted, and it wasn’t happening as much. They were just physically tougher than us. We rallied and responded and made some runs of our own.”
Marysville Pilchuck found ways to answer Mt. Spokane throughout, never letting the Wildcats build an insurmountable lead. The Tomahawks, whose largest deficit was seven points, tied the game several times and had their only lead early in the fourth quarter.
Seemingly every time MP started to gain momentum, the Wildcats stemmed it.
“To their credit, holy smokes, we got ahead and they came right back,” Mt. Spokane coach David Wagenblast said.
“The Battle kid is a special player. It was one of those matchups where I feel like we got the upper hand, and if we were to play them 10 times, we might not get the upper hand next time. We were fortunate to move on.”
After an opening MP basket, Mt. Spokane went on a 9-0 run before the Tomahawks settled in. The Wildcats led 18-17 after the first quarter, and thanks to Battle’s 14 second-quarter points, Marysville Pilchuck took a 33-33 tie into halftime.
The rest of the game followed a punch-counterpunch format, with both sides hitting big shots in critical moments.
The Tomahawks’ only lead of the game came with 6:55 to play when Luke Dobler, who finished with eight points, hit a pull-up 3-pointer to give Marysville Pilchuck a 52-51 advantage.
Smith drilled a 28-footer with 2:10 to go that put Mt. Spokane in front 64-60. The Wildcats led 67-62 with less than 30 seconds to play, but Battle rose up and hit a ridiculous triple to cut the deficit to 67-65 with 24 seconds to play.
Arguably one of the game’s biggest plays came on a pair of ensuing Wildcat free throws. Hattenburg, with 15 seconds left, missed his first free throw. He also missed his second, but with four Pilchuck players on the blocks and every Mt. Spokane player at halfcourt, Hattenburg somehow managed to get his own rebound and was fouled again.
Hattenburg made one of two before Dobler converted two at the other end, trimming Mt. Spokane’s lead to 68-67 with 8 seconds left. Hattenburg added two more free throws, but Marysville Pilchuck turned the ball over before getting a final shot off.
“I told them in the locker room, and this isn’t meant to be disrespectful to any of my former teams, but this is by far and away the best team that I have had,” Bary Gould said.
“All the guys just completely satisfied with their roles. They are willing to do whatever they need to do. Once the dust settles, I think they will look back and think, ‘Man, we won 19 games. We won a district championship.’ It’s a pretty special season.”