Glacier Peak’s Isaiah Cuellar has his shot blocked during the 4A boys state basketball game against Camas on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 in Tacoma, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Glacier Peak’s Isaiah Cuellar has his shot blocked during the 4A boys state basketball game against Camas on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 in Tacoma, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Glacier Peak boys mount huge comeback, reach 4A state quarterfinals

Senior Isaiah Cuellar leads the way with 24 points as the Grizzlies down Camas 65-61.

TACOMA — Isaiah Cuellar was determined that Wednesday night would not be his last competitive basketball game.

The Glacier Peak High School senior put the Grizzlies on his back, and Glacier Peak dug itself out of a 20-point deficit to defeat the Camas Papermakers 65-61 in the Class 4A state boys basketball round of 12 at the Tacoma Dome.

The fourth-seeded Grizzlies were against the ropes when they trailed 32-12 in the second quarter amidst a barrage of Camas 3-pointers.

But Cuellar scored 24 points, then set up Zachary Albright for the tiebreaking layup with 17 seconds remaining as Glacier Peak (23-3) advanced to face No. 3 Gonzaga Prep in the quarterfinals at 7:15 p.m. Thursday at the Tacoma Dome.

“I know how much my teammates look up to me, and being a senior I don’t want to go home,” said Cuellar, who’s headed to Central Washington University to play football in the fall. “This could have been my last meaningful basketball game.

“This means a lot,” Cuellar added. “We put in so much effort throughout the season and this is all we wanted. This has been our goal since day one.”

Albright, Glacier Peak’s freshman post player, was a warrior down low with 14 points and 14 rebounds. Josiah Lee, who was hounded by Camas defenders all night long, scored 13, while Jayce Nelson chipped in with eight points, six boards and five assists.

“I love the way the kids fought,” Glacier Peak coach Brian Hunter said. “That’s what we’re about as a program. Obviously that wasn’t the start we wanted to the game, but I think we showed so much in the way we dug deep and found some toughness. It was a special, it was a fun night.”

Beckett Currie scored 26 points, Ethan Harris added 14 and Jace VanVoorhis had 10 for 13th-seeded Camas, which ended its season 17-11.

Things looked grim for Glacier Peak midway through the second quarter. The Camas defense targeted Lee, Glacier Peak’s leading scorer, and held him in check. Meanwhile, the Papermakers drained eight 3s to build a 20-point advantage.

But Hunter made a defensive adjustment of his own, doubling Currie every time he got the ball, and that slowed the Camas offense.

“Give our kids credit, they forced their non-go-to guy to make shots, and that’s tough to do at this level,” Hunter said. “We tried to make somebody who wasn’t the guy beat us, and luckily we had a couple guys be the guy tonight and make some plays.”

Glacier Peak’s Jo Lee takes the ball down the court during the 4A boys state basketball game against Camas on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 in Tacoma, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Glacier Peak’s Jo Lee takes the ball down the court during the 4A boys state basketball game against Camas on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 in Tacoma, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Chief among those was Cuellar. He scored on a breakaway and hit a 3 as the Grizzlies cut the deficit to 12 at halftime. Then from the midpoint of the third quarter until midway through the fourth he dropped 14 points. He hit a tough 14-foot jumper as the shot clock expired, then hit another 3 on the following possession to give Glacier Peak the lead at 54-51.

Currie kept the Papermakers in it when Glacier Peak threatened to pull away, and his 3 tied it at 61-61 with 1 minute, 1 second remaining.

But on the decisive possession, Cuellar drove the lane, drew the defense and fed Albright for an uncontested layup to make it 63-61. Currie raced the other way and his 3 was just off the back rim. Reed Nagel drained two free throws with 4.6 seconds remaining to clinch it.

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