MILL CREEK — The bank was open for Luke Dobler.
With championship-caliber resilience and a fortuitous bounce off the glass, the Marysville Pilchuck High School boys basketball team is headed to the state regionals once again.
Dobler banked in a go-ahead 3-pointer with 27 seconds remaining and the top-seeded Tomahawks rallied for a wild 59-56 win over fourth-seeded Edmonds-Woodway in an action-packed Class 3A Northwest District Tournament semifinal Wednesday night.
With the victory, Marysville Pilchuck (20-2) extended its win streak to 14 games and clinched its third consecutive state regional berth.
“Our boys just didn’t lose heart,” Tomahawks coach Bary Gould said. “They kept battling. And the same for Edmonds-Woodway. It was just back and forth. It was just one of those really good high school basketball games.”
The back-and-forth contest at Jackson High School featured seven ties, eight lead changes and no shortage of big-time shots.
The biggest of the night came from Marysville Pilchuck’s senior point guard during a crazy sequence in the final minute.
Taking advantage of a mistake by the Tomahawks’ defense, Edmonds-Woodway’s Chinedu Acholonu found forward Tollak Crawford wide-open underneath the basket for a go-ahead layup that gave the Warriors a 56-54 lead with 41 seconds to play.
Marysville Pilchuck then quickly pushed the ball upcourt and worked it inside to Ethan Jackson, who passed it back out to Dobler on the left wing.
The Whitworth University-bound standout let it fly from 3-point range, and the ball banked in off the backboard to give the Tomahawks a 57-56 edge, eliciting a frenzied celebration from their fans.
“I think the basketball gods were just shining down on us and Luke,” Gould said. “… People might say it was a lucky shot, but it seems like a lot of luck goes to kids that have been working really, really hard in their lives to become good basketball players.”
On the ensuing possession, Edmonds-Woodway (15-7) drove into traffic and tossed up a contested shot. The Tomahawks rebounded the miss and Dobler was later fouled with 4.7 seconds remaining.
Dobler sank two free throws to give Marysville Pilchuck a three-point lead, and the Warriors’ halfcourt attempt at the buzzer was off the mark.
The victory not only clinched the Tomahawks a state regional berth, but also likely secured them a second consecutive trip to the Tacoma Dome for the Hardwood Classic. That’s because third-ranked Marysville Pilchuck is a virtual lock to finish in the top eight of the 3A state Ratings Percentage Index, meaning the Tomahawks’ state regional game next week likely will be a non-elimination contest.
It’s the latest accomplishment in what’s been a golden age for Marysville Pilchuck boys basketball, which earned a program-best fourth-place state trophy last season. Prior to this current run of three consecutive state regional berths, the Tomahawks had reached state just once since 1993.
“It just seems really surreal,” Gould said. “I’ve been coaching at MP for a lot of years and we’ve had some really, really good teams. And it’s special to be able to go (to state) at all. But to say that you’ve gone there for three years, … it’s really special.”
Marysville Pilchuck was led by the senior trio of Aaron Kalab, Dobler and Cameron Stordahl, who combined for 55 of the team’s 59 points.
Kalab netted a team-high 20 points. Stordahl drained five 3-pointers — including four in the first half and a couple from NBA range — and finished with 16 points. And Dobler helped the Tomahawks erase a six-point fourth-quarter deficit, scoring 14 of his 19 points in the final period.
“Cameron kind of carried us in the first half and Aaron was really steady throughout the whole entire game,” Gould said. “… And (Luke) just willed us to win.”
It was all just enough to overcome a spirited performance by the Warriors, who featured nine different scorers. Talented guard Mutdung Bol led Edmonds-Woodway with 13 of his 15 points in the second half — including three 3-pointers — and Crawford added 12 points.
The victory advanced Marysville Pilchuck to Saturday night’s district title game at Everett Community College. The two-time defending district champion Tomahawks will face No. 3 seed Shorecrest, which beat No. 2 seed Stanwood 68-58 in the other semifinal.
With the loss, Edmonds-Woodway dropped to the loser’s bracket, where four remaining teams will battle for the district’s final state regional berth. The Warriors will face No. 6 seed Marysville Getchell in an elimination game Friday night. The winner of that contest advances to face either No. 2 seed Stanwood or No. 5 seed Meadowdale in a winner-to-state, loser-out contest Saturday.
Marysville Pilchuck jumped to an early 10-0 lead after Stordahl hit a pair of 3-pointers and Edmonds-Woodway went scoreless for nearly five minutes to open the game.
But the Warriors stormed back, rattling off a 16-2 run to pull in front. Nikko McNeal highlighted the stretch with a deep 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the opening period.
Stordahl added two deep 3s in the second quarter as the Tomahawks reclaimed the lead, but Edmonds-Woodway tied the game at 24 entering halftime.
Bol established his presence in the third quarter, sinking a jumper and two 3-pointers to put the Warriors in front. Edmonds-Woodway’s Shiloh Zevenbergen added a 3 and teammate Steele Swinton hit an off-balance, turnaround jumper at the third-quarter buzzer to give the Warriors a 45-39 lead.
The Tomahawks answered with eight straight points to open the fourth, reclaiming the lead on a 3-pointer from Kalab that bounced in off the rim.
Later in the period, Bol hit a turnaround jumper that tied the game at 49 with 3:43 to play.
Dobler sank a short jumper about a minute later and Marysville Pilchuck added free throws to push its lead to five points.
But the Warriors responded yet again. Bol swished a 3-pointer and Crawford added two free throws to tie the game at 54 with 1:10 remaining.
That set the stage for the wild last-minute sequence and Dobler’s late-game heroics, which lifted the Tomahawks to their 34th consecutive win against Wesco 3A/2A opponents.
“These guys, they don’t quit,” Gould said. “It’s not like, ‘Oh, they’re up six or seven in the fourth quarter, what are we gonna do?’ They just stay the course, and they know how to win.”