TACOMA — Just another day at the Beach.
For the second straight year, the Meadowdale boys basketball team rolled into the semifinals of the Class 3A state playoffs and slammed headfirst into a dynasty in progress.
Much like last year, the Mavericks fell to Rainier Beach 48-36 Friday at the Tacoma Dome.
Rodrick and Lodrick Stewart — who led the Vikings to titles in 2002 and 2003 — may be at USC these days, but Beach is still Beach.
"They have quick players, they’re tall and they’re long," said second-year Mavericks coach Chad McGuire, whose team shot 26 percent from the field. "We just had trouble scoring. Rainier Beach had a lot to do with that."
With a height advantage averaging four inches per starter, Rainier Beach (26-2) prevented Meadowdale (23-4) from getting many looks at the basket. Though the Mavericks played defense valiantly, it was not enough to overcome Rainier Beach’s game-long harassment.
"It was a tough game," said Mavericks guard Taylor Marsh, who hit two 3-point baskets early in the fourth quarter — the second of which cut Beach’s lead to 33-29. "We just never really got rolling. I’m happy that the (Meadowdale) girls are playing for a championship, but I wish we could be there, too."
For the second-straight game, the Mavericks slowed a dominant post player headed for a Division I college. Meadowdale held Gonzaga-bound 6-foot-10 forward Josh Heytvelt of Clarkston to 11 points and six rebounds in Thursday’s quarterfinal victory to get a chance at Beach. Friday, Meadowdale forwards Colin Matteson, Danny Hagen and Daniel Stabbert combined to hold 6-foot-11 center C.J. Giles to eight points and six rebounds. Giles, who will play for Miami, tallied only two points and one rebound in the first half, though the Vikings managed a 23-17 lead. Giles made most of his contributions on defense, blocking seven shots and altering several others.
"I’m so proud of our guys for the way we battled," said McGuire, whose team will play West Valley (Yakima) in the game to decide third and sixth places today at 3:30 p.m. "We never game up. We were constantly fighting, and I’m proud of our effort."
Rainier Beach coach Mike Bethea, whose team would become the first in Class 3A or 4A to win three straight titles if the Vikings beat O’Dea tonight, expected Meadowdale to throw everything it could at Giles. He believed his other players would come through, and they did.
Terrence Williams, a 6-foot-6 point guard, scored 18 points, including an alley-oop dunk eight seconds into the game. Post Matt Fields scored 10 points off the bench and grabbed five rebounds to help Beach to a 32-24 edge on the boards.
"We’re not just C.J. in the low post," Bethea said.
Though Beach led for all but a 45-second span early in the first quarter, the outcome was in doubt until the final minute. The Vikings led 37-29 when Giles banked in a shot for his second field goal of the game, but Meadowdale cut the lead to 37-33 with 2:29 remaining.
The Vikings closed things out by hitting 11 of 12 free throws in the final 1:48.
In the game’s early stages, it seemed Rainier Beach would breeze into the state championship game.
The Vikings led 16-5 in the closing seconds of the first quarter. Meadowdale point guard Jake Linton, who led Meadowdale with 14 points while playing all 32 minutes, was fouled while trying to beat the first-quarter buzzer. He made both free throws and hit consecutive 3-point shots to begin the second quarter, cutting Beach’s lead to 16-13.
The Vikings took a 28-17 lead with four minutes remaining in the third before Linton got hot again. He again sank back-to-back 3-pointers to pull Meadowdale to within five points with 1:12 remaining in the third.
Meadowdale, which had never won a state playoff game prior to 2003, hopes to improve on last year’s sixth place finish by going out on a high note today.
"It’s a great team," Marsh said. "We made another good showing. It wasn’t quite what we wanted, but hopefully we’ll come out with a third-place trophy."
Meadowdale—Lover 4, Marsh 10, Linton 14, Myhre, Faison, Stabbert, Matteson 4, Hagen 4. Rainier Beach—Williams 18, Anderson 3, Witherspoon 3, Collier 2, Walker, Giles 8, Fields 10, Iweka 4. 3-point goals—Lover 1, Marsh 3, Linton 4, Anderson 1. Records—Meadowdale 23-4. Rainier Beach 26-2.