KIRKLAND — The Mariner and Jackson boys basketball teams had already delivered a pair of classics in their two-game series during the regular season.
The Wesco 4A co-champions traded a pair of one-point wins back in January when they battled it out for league supremacy.
The teams delivered another thrilling finish with a state regionals berth and their seasons on the line Thursday night.
It was Jackson that controlled the battle for most of the evening. But in the end, Mariner simply had no quit.
The fifth-seeded Marauders trailed for nearly all of the first 31 minutes and fell behind by as many as 19 points in the third quarter, but the team put its grit on full display as it rallied from down double digits midway through fourth and pulled off a stunning 77-76 comeback over the second-seeded Timberwolves in a winner-to-state Class 4A Wes-King Bi-District Tournament elimination clash at Lake Washington High School.
“They’ve just been doing it all year,” Mariner coach Tevin Dillon said. “When we turn on, we turn on and good things happen. So I just kept telling them let’s get it within nine, let’s get it within striking distance, and they came through. They played hard. These guys fight.”
The victory clinched the Marauders (15-8) their third trip to the state regionals in the past four postseasons.
Seniors Riley Weimer and Macky James knocked down a pair of 3-pointers as Mariner cut its deficit to single digits at 64-60 with 3 minutes, 39 seconds remaining.
Jackson (17-5) continued to hold its lead through the fourth until Mariner sophomore Stavontai McSwain drilled a 3-pointer just off the right corner for his team’s first lead at 73-72 with 1:02 left.
Senior Sylas Williams helped Jackson regain its advantage with a quick bucket and the Timberwolves added a free throw before Mariner senior Jailin Johnson tied it at 75 with a pair from the line.
Williams then put Jackson back in the lead by making the front end of two free throws, but his second drew iron and Johnson was fouled going after the rebound.
The 5-foot-8 guard stepped up to the line and made both attempts for a 76-75 lead with six seconds left.
“I’ve got a lot of trust in him,” Dillon said. “He definitely came through. This could’ve been his last game. He played with some serious heart.”
Jackson had a chance to get a winning shot on its last possession, but Mariner poked the ball free and the teams scrambled for the loose ball at midcourt as the buzzer sounded.
Senior Makai Bloomfield and Johnson combined for 32 points in the second half, including 17 as their squad outscored Jackson 29-14 in the final period. Bloomfield finished with a team-high 29 points and seven rebounds, Johnson had 21 points, Weimer chipped in 11 and McSwain added six.
Williams poured in a game-high 31 points and pulled down 12 rebounds, senior Ty Hale netted 17 points, senior Caden Sproul added 12 points and junior Ryan McFerran chipped six points and 11 rebounds.
Jackson opened the game on a 7-0 run and led by double digits from the opening minutes of the second quarter until Mariner made its improbable run.
Williams was dominant and the Timberwolves received contributions from many as they built their big lead through the first three quarters. The standout 6-foot-7 swingman had 26 points and five more Timberwolves had at least six heading into the final period.
But it was all Mariner in the fourth.
The Marauders surrendered just three made field goals and held Jackson scoreless from the field until 3:10 was left.
As the defense clamped down, Mariner hit big 3-pointers and took advantage of its opportunities at the foul line by sinking 11 of 14 in the period.
After they completed their comeback, the Marauders swarmed one another in front of their bench for a spirited celebration.
“I’m super proud of these guys,” Dillon said. “We’re state-bound, baby.”
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