ARLINGTON — Ethan Martin and the Arlington High School boys basketball team weren’t too pleased with the state tournament seed they received.
The Eagles unleashed their frustration Tuesday night.
Martin scored 35 points and No. 13-seeded Arlington advanced to the state regionals with a 73-53 win over No. 20 seed Evergreen-Vancouver in a Class 3A state play-in game at Arlington High School.
“I felt like Wesco kind of got disrespected,” Martin said of the seeding his team and other league foes received from the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s seeding committees on Sunday.
“We were frustrated the last couple days. So we definitely took it out on Evergreen tonight.”
Martin dominated from the opening tip, scoring the Eagles’ first 13 points on his way to a 26-point first half. The standout 6-foot senior sharpshooter buried six 3-pointers, including five in the first two quarters. And he was equally effective off the dribble, scoring a handful of baskets while attacking the rim.
It was the third time this season that Martin reached the 35-point mark. He broke the school record with 42 points in a win over Marysville Pilchuck last month and scored 37 in an overtime victory over Shorecrest in December.
“He’s one in a million,” Arlington coach Nick Brown said. “He’s one of the best players I’ve ever coached.”
With the victory, the Eagles (18-5) earned their third state regional berth in the past four full-length seasons.
Arlington will travel to face No. 12 seed Ferris (16-5) in a loser-out state regional game Saturday at Central Valley High School in Spokane Valley. The winner moves on to next week’s 3A Hardwood Classic in the Tacoma Dome.
“That’s the ultimate goal,” Martin said.
After winning the 16-team Wesco 3A/2A regular-season title, the Eagles lost to eventual 3A District 1 Tournament champion Mountlake Terrace in the district semifinals last week and needed to beat Cascade in a loser-out game to advance to state.
When the brackets were released Sunday, Arlington was handed the No. 13 seed in the 20-team 3A state field. If the Eagles were seeded one spot better, they would’ve avoided the state play-in round. And they would’ve hosted a state regional game this weekend, instead of making a 300-plus-mile trek across the state.
“We’re kind of frustrated a little bit,” Brown said. “We didn’t get a very good seeding, and we feel like we’re better than (that).”
Martin and the Eagles sure looked like a team with something to prove Tuesday night.
On Arlington’s opening possession, Martin scored off a backdoor cut. Moments later, he drained back-to-back 3-pointers. Then he showed his driving ability, snaking through several defenders for a basket. And after being fouled on a 3-pointer, he added three free throws.
Just over four minutes into the game, Martin already had 13 points. And he outscored Evegreen (11-14) all by himself in the first quarter, with the Eagles holding a 16-10 lead after the opening period.
“It’s nice when you hit your first shot and you’re kind of feeling it after that,” Martin said. “So that’s just how the game kind of went.”
Martin had another 13-point spurt in the final four minutes of the first half.
Martin began the stretch by driving for a basket. He followed by scoring off another backdoor cut. And then he drilled three more 3-pointers in the final two minutes of the half, including a buzzer-beater that gave Arlington a commanding 37-21 lead at the break.
“Our guys were dialed in,” Brown said. “They were locked in. So that’s leadership from my seniors, and that’s big-time.”
The Eagles stretched their lead to as many as 25 points late in the third quarter. Evergreen trimmed the margin to 12 points in the closing minutes, but the deficit was too steep to overcome for the underdogs from the Greater St. Helen’s League.
Junior post David Zachman scored 11 points for Arlington, including a fourth-quarter dunk. Senior guard Trent Nobach added nine points on three 3-pointers and senior guard Luke Brown chipped in eight points.
Senior guard Juelz Mendonza led Evergreen with 14 points and senior guard DJ Edmondson added 13. It ended a Cinderella run for the Plainsmen, who started the season 3-11 before winning eight of their next 10 games to reach the state tournament.
“I’ve been saying it the whole time: It’s not who you play, it’s how you play when you play,” Brown said. “And I feel like that’s so true. We played well tonight. We did not play well against Mountlake Terrace. (And) Mountlake Terrace made us not play well. They outplayed us. But I feel like tonight was a good bounceback for us.”
And now — even with a tougher path than they’d hoped — the Eagles are one win away from their first trip to the Hardwood Classic since 2013.
“We (didn’t) mind playing this game,” Brown said. “And now we’re gonna have to drive to Spokane — which is what it is — and take care of business over there, and then hopefully go to Tacoma.”