Mariner’s Jailin Johnson (2) fights for the ball during a 3A boys game in the Hardwood Classic between Gonzaga Prep and Mariner at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington on Wednesday, March 1, 2023. The Marauders fell, 79-69. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Mariner’s Jailin Johnson (2) fights for the ball during a 3A boys game in the Hardwood Classic between Gonzaga Prep and Mariner at the Tacoma Dome in Tacoma, Washington on Wednesday, March 1, 2023. The Marauders fell, 79-69. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Mariner boys can’t overcome slow start in loss to Gonzaga Prep

The Marauders fall behind early and suffer a season-ending 79-69 loss to the Bullpups in the 4A state round of 12.

TACOMA — The Mariner High School boys basketball team rode its grit and determination all the way to another trip to the Tacoma Dome, but the Mauarders couldn’t overcome a rough first quarter in their round-of-12 matchup with Gonzaga Prep.

The 12th-seeded Marauders struggled with turnovers and couldn’t keep the fifth-seeded Bullpups off the offensive glass or out of the paint in the early going as they fell 79-69 on Wednesday in the Class 4A Hardwood Classic.

Gonzaga Prep (22-4) advances to face third-seeded Olympia at 12:15 p.m. Thursday.

“I think we came out kind of slow, which we’ve done before, but Gonzaga Prep is super disciplined so it’s hard to get within striking distance,” Mariner coach Tevin Dillon said.

Senior Makai Bloomfield knocked down six 3-pointers on his way to a game-high 27 points to the Marauders. Senior Jailin Johnson had 16 points and six rebounds, junior Isaiah Cuellar added nine points and senior Macky James chipped in eight points.

Henry Sandberg led a balanced attack for Gonzaga Prep with 19 points on 8 of 10 shooting from the field. Ryan Jackson scored 16 points, Jamil Miller had a double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, Jayce Swanson netted 15 points and Jackson Floyd chipped in nine points and eight rebounds.

The Bullpups shot 56.4% (31 of 55) from the field and 45.5% (5 of 11) from beyond the arc. They also outrebounded Mariner 38-22, which helped lead to a 10-2 advantage in second-chance points, and held a 20-10 advantage in points off turnovers.

“They shoot a high percentage and they were scrappy on defense early,” Dillon said. “We didn’t capitalize on our turnovers early. That hurt us as well. They’re a tough team.”

The Bullpups took control early and looked well on their way to a big victory while piling up points in the paint and running out to a 27-13 lead after the first quarter.

Gonzaga Prep pushed its lead to as many as 18 in the second quarter, taking its biggest advantage at 40-22 late in the second on Swanson’s layup.

Mariner hung around early in the third and eventually cut the deficit to 11 on a pair of free throws by Johnson and again on a 3-pointer at the third-quarter buzzer from Bloomfield that made it 54-43 heading into the final period.

The Marauders kept pushing in the final period but couldn’t quite break through with the run they needed to overcome a deficit that hovered around 10 points for most of the fourth. Bloomfield eventually cut it to 77-69 with a layup but less than 30 seconds remained and Mariner ran out of time.

“We struggled to continue our runs and they did a good job stopping them,” Dillon said.

Mariner, which claimed a share of the Wesco 4A title and made back-to-back trips to the Tacoma Dome for the first time since a run of three straight from 2007-2009, finishes its season at 16-9.

“Obviously this is super defeating. It hurts,” Dillon said. “But this is just a really good group of kids and I’m proud of them. I want them to keep their heads high. They achieved a lot.”

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