ARLINGTON — It’s easy to notice the one thing the Mariner High School boys basketball team lacks.
With just one player in its regular rotation listed above 6-foot, Mariner almost exclusively finds itself battling much taller and longer opponents on a nightly basis.
Despite the lack of size, the Marauders keep winning basketball games. The key trait leading them to victory is one that’s immeasurable: the heart the team plays with each time it steps on the court.
Facing a taller and longer Chiawana squad with its season on the line Saturday, Mariner proved once again that it’s not about the size of the dog in the fight, it’s about the size of the fight in the dog.
The Marauders used their speed and quickness around the perimeter to fluster the Riverhawks and force turnovers, seniors Jailin Johnson and Makai Bloomfield combined for 52 points and 12th-seeded Mariner held on for an 85-74 victory over 13th-seeded Chiawana in the regional round of the Class 4A state tournament at Arlington High School.
As a result, the Marauders are heading back to the Tacoma Dome for a second consecutive season.
“We’re a small team with a lot of heart,” Mariner coach Tevin Dillon said. “I couldn’t be more proud of these guys.”
Mariner (16-8) advances to face fifth-seeded Gonzaga Prep in a loser-out, round-of-12 matchup at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday.
“We grinded through this and we’re excited,” Johnson said. “We’re ready to get back there.”
The teams battled in a back-and-forth first half that featured eight lead changes, but the Marauders started to create some separation late in the second quarter with an 8-2 run entering the break. Johnson’s 3-pointer late in the period extended the Mariner lead to 42-35.
The Marauders rode the momentum swing into the third and pushed their lead to double digits at 45-35 on senior Michael Sully’s triple. Bloomfield came up big in the period as well with 13 of his 23 points, including three 3-pointers. Mariner ended the quarter on a 14-3 run and pushed its lead to 67-51 just before the quarter ended after Sully stole an inbounds pass and dished off to Johnson for a layup.
The Riverhawks (15-9) wouldn’t go away in the fourth quarter after falling behind by as many as 18 in the fourth. Chiawana chipped away at its deficit with a 13-2 run to pull within 73-66 midway through the period. Riverhawks senior Mason Castillo trimmed Mariner’s lead 77-72 in the closing minutes, but the Marauders responded with poise and connected on all eight of their free-throw attempts after to ice the game.
Johnson poured in 17 of his game-high 29 points in the first half, Bloomfield had 23 and senior Macky James added 15 for Mariner.
Castillo led Chiawana with 27 points, Donavin Young and Kade Smith added 14, and DJ Duran chipped in 13.
“Feels good to get back to the Dome,” Bloomfield said. “We’ve still got work to do.”
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