PASCO — The Everett Community College men’s basketball program will have to wait for its first Northwest Athletic Conference championship.
The Trojans fell behind early and never recovered as Everett fell to the Bellevue Bulldogs 85-71 in the championship game of the NWAC tournament Sunday evening at Columbia Basin College.
Everett scored on the game’s first possession, but Bellevue rattled off the next 15 points to take control early. In the second half the Trojans, who fell behind by as many as 16 in the first half, cut the deficit to eight on multiple occasions. But every time Everett looked poised to make a run, the Bulldogs made a play on the offensive end to stem the tide.
“We just got off to a rough start,” Everett coach Mike Trautman said via cell phone after the game. “We hadn’t faced adversity in the tournament yet, we were the ones who were the punchers in the first five minutes of games. I think it was tough for our guys being the ones who were chasing the lead instead of protecting it like the last three games.”
Prophet Johnson, Bishop Tosi and Owen Moriarty all scored 19 points for Bellevue (23-9), the No. 4 seed from the North Region, which claimed the trophy after losing to Yakima Valley in last year’s championship game. Johnson, who also grabbed 11 rebounds, was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player.
Everett (25-8), the No. 2 seed from the North, was paced by Tyriq Luke’s 19 points, as well as 18 points and 11 rebounds from Leon Sayers. Glacier Peak High School graduate Tucker Molina, a key player for the Trojans, was limited to eight points and 17 minutes after being slowed by a leg injury early in the second half.
Everett was seeking its first ever NWAC men’s basketball championship, and its first league title of any kind since winning the Washington State Junior College Athletic Conference championship in 1959. The Trojans also came into the game on a roll, having won comfortably in each of its three previous tournament games. In addition, Everett swept its two games against Bellevue during the regular season.
However, the Bulldogs weren’t going to be a pushover. Bellevue finished in a three-way tie for second with Everett in North Region play at 9-5 — tiebreakers determined the seeds between Everett, Bellevue and Edmonds — and the Bulldogs had the most significant result of the tournament when they upset undefeated and overwhelming pre-tournament favorite North Idaho in the first round.
Bellevue showed why early on, as Johnson hit a long pull-up 3-pointer, then scored in transition to give the Bulldogs a 15-2 lead. Everett struggled mightily from the field in the first half, at one point shooting just 22% from the floor, including 1-for-12 from 3-point range. A late burst, sparked by Colton Spencer’s two 3s, meant Everett was fortunate to head into halftime trailing just 37-25.
“I think Bellevue came out and just played harder than us in the first five minutes,” Trautman said about falling behind early. “Any loose ball or tip, they’d get it and they’d score. We got our hands on loose balls, but we weren’t able to finish the play and they did. “
The Trojans shot better in the second half, but missed layups impeded Everett’s ability to cut into the deficit. And when Everett pulled within eight at 58-50 while both Johnson (cramps) and Tosi (four fouls) were on the bench, it was Sayerr Senghore (14 points, 10 rebounds) who picked up the slack for Bellevue. The Trojans again pulled within eight at 67-59 with 5:35 remaining. But Moriarty hit a big corner 3, and Everett never got back within single digits the rest of the way.
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