TACOMA — For much of the game, the outside shots weren’t falling for the Marysville Pilchuck boys basketball team.
But with a strong defensive performance, the Tomahawks were in control the whole way.
And now, they’re headed back to the state quarterfinals.
Third-seeded Marysville Pilchuck advanced to the Class 3A state quarterfinals for the second consecutive year with a 63-48 win over 14th-seeded Central Kitsap in a 3A Hardwood Classic first-round, loser-out contest Wednesday morning in the Tacoma Dome.
It will be the Tomahawks’ fourth state quarterfinal appearance in program history — and their third in the past six seasons.
“It really means everything, especially for our seniors,” Marysville Pilchuck senior Luke Dobler said. “We did it last year, but this year it just honestly means a lot, because it’s our last year and we don’t want it to end. There’s just a little bit more on the line for us. In the back of our head, we don’t want to stop playing together.”
Coming off an overtime loss to sixth-seeded Kamiakin in the state regional round, the Tomahawks (22-3) needed a victory Wednesday to keep their season alive.
Marysville Pilchuck came out with a stifling defensive performance, limiting Central Kitsap (18-9) to just four points in the opening quarter and 16 in the first half. The Cougars didn’t surpass the 30-point mark until near the midway point of the fourth quarter.
The stifling defense helped offset a cold-shooting start for the Tomahawks, who built an early double-digit lead and took an eight-point advantage into halftime despite missing all 10 of their 3-point attempts in the first half.
“I really give a lot of credit to Marysville,” Central Kitsap coach Scott McMinds said. “They took us out of our game and took our strengths away.”
The biggest key was Marysville Pilchuck’s ability to contain standout 5-foot-8 senior point guard Colby White, who was coming off a 35-point performance in the Cougars’ 75-65 state regional win over Shorecrest.
White scored a team-high 17 points Wednesday and hit a pair of impressive stepback jumpers. But the Tomahawks kept him from taking over the game, and no other Central Kitsap player scored in double figures.
The Cougars tried to get the speedy and sharp-shooting White in mismatch situations against 6-foot-6 post Ethan Jackson, but the Marysville Pilchuck senior’s athleticism helped keep White in check.
“Colby White is a special player, and so I think the key (was) that we have a 6-6 center that can defend on the perimeter,” Gould said. “We can go positionless, and we have a couple of little guards that can get around the front and fight in the post, and so we were just able to kind of stick with the defense that we’ve been using all year.”
The Tomahawks were once again led by the senior trio of Cameron Stordahl, Aaron Kalab and Luke Dobler, who combined for 49 of their 63 points.
Stordahl drained three third-quarter 3-pointers and scored a game-high 25 points. Kalab added 13 points and Dobler had 11.
Kalab asserted his presence in the post early on, scoring Marysville Pilchuck’s first six points and finishing with eight in the opening period.
The Tomahawks led 18-4 two minutes into the second quarter, but Central Kitsap closed the gap before Dobler made a putback in the waning seconds of the half. Marysville Pilchuck took a 24-16 advantage into the break.
The Tomahawks caught fire from beyond the arc in the third quarter, sinking five 3-pointers to push their lead back to double digits.
Marysville Pilchuck then scored seven straight points early in the fourth to push the margin to 50-30 and essentially put the game out of reach.
Next up for the Tomahawks is a state quarterfinal against perennial power Garfield at 9 a.m. Thursday. Led by a pair of NCAA Division I-bound forwards, the fourth-seeded Bulldogs (22-4) average 78.8 points per game.
It will be Marysville Pilchuck’s second consecutive state quarterfinal matchup against a Metro League power. Last year, the Tomahawks fell to eventual state champion O’Dea in the quarterfinals before rebounding for a program-best fourth-place trophy.
“I feel like all year long, we’ve had expectations on us,” Gould said. “So many teams from our league played us down to the wire, … and we always said (it was) because they’re playing free. Now tomorrow, we get to be that team.
“There isn’t anyone that thinks we’re gonna beat Garfield in the morning except for the guys in that locker room. And we have nothing to lose. We’re gonna go and just play free.”