MP boys take 4th for best state finish in program history (VIDEO)

The Tomahawks earn an emotional 71-60 win over Kelso in UW-bound RaeQuan Battle’s final prep game.

TACOMA — With the ball on the verge of bouncing out of bounds, Luke Dobler laid out on the Tacoma Dome floor with a full-extension dive to keep it in play.

Dobler’s diving save knocked the ball to Ethan Jackson, who then passed to RaeQuan Battle for a corner 3-pointer.

In many ways, that sequence in the second quarter of Saturday’s contest epitomized the blend of talent, effort and tight-knit camaraderie that helped propel the Marysville Pilchuck boys basketball team to its best season in program history.

The fourth-seeded Tomahawks capped their success-filled campaign by claiming a program-best fourth-place state trophy with a 71-60 win over fifth-seeded Kelso at the Class 3A Hardwood Classic.

“It means the world to all of us,” Dobler said. “Our goal was to make history. That’s what we wanted to do this whole season, and doing that in (RaeQuan’s) last game, it was like a movie. It was written in the stars.”

After falling to eventual state champion O’Dea in Thursday’s quarterfinals, Marysville Pilchuck (22-4) rebounded with victories over Ingraham and Kelso to capture the fourth-place trophy, which marks the best state finish in program history and the Tomahawks’ first state placing in 30 years.

Marysville Pilchuck’s previous best finishes were a fifth-place trophy in 1989 and sixth place in 1988.

“It means a lot to us and our fans,” Battle said of the program milestone. “… It took us a long road.”

After losing records in 2016 and 2017, the Tomahawks went 19-5 last year and advanced to the state regionals. Marysville Pilchuck then took the next step this season, going unbeaten in Wesco 3A/2A before claiming a second consecutive district crown and earning the historic state finish.

“It took a lot of work to get here,” Tomahawks coach Bary Gould said. “The foundation was built in years past. Last year’s squad won a district title, and they set the tone and got some things established. This (year’s team), even more so.”

At the center of Marysville Pilchuck’s rise has been Battle, the supremely talented University of Washington-bound star and lone senior on the Tomahawks’ roster.

Battle compiled yet another standout performance Saturday in his high school finale, leading Marysville Pilchuck with 25 points. The nationally ranked recruit buried 5 of 10 shots from 3-point range, including a pair of highlight-reel stepback triples.

Yet afterward, it was Battle the person — as opposed to Battle the player — that his coach and teammates raved about.

“He’s one phenomenal player. I think everyone sees that,” Tomahawks junior Aaron Kalab said. “(But) our coach always talks about his heart, and it’s true. He’s one of the greatest people you’ll ever meet. He plays at such a high level, but keeps his head down low and loves each and every one of us. … He’s truly just an amazing person and player.”

Dobler said there were plenty of emotions in the locker room after Saturday’s historic win. There was the thrill of accomplishing a program milestone. But there also were plenty of tears shed, knowing this was Battle’s last game as part of the Marysville Pilchuck brotherhood.

“All the emotions that we had for each other and all the love that we have for this team, it’s a true family,” Dobler said. “It shows out there (on the court), and it shows in the locker room.”

Battle led the way Saturday, but the Tomahawks once again showed they’re not just a one-man show.

Kalab notched a double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds. Dobler provided 14 points, nine rebounds, six assists and three steals. Cameron Stordahl added 12 points, giving Marysville Pilchuck four players in double figures.

“It’s just a special group,” Gould said. “(It was) a really, really good team effort.”

The Tomahawks overcame a 39-point performance from Seattle Pacific University signee Shaw Anderson, who set a 3A Hardwood Classic record with 122 points over the four-day tournament. The versatile 6-foot-5 senior finished 11 of 24 from the field and sank all 13 free throws in Saturday’s placing game, which was the second meeting in eight days between Marysville Pilchuck and Kelso.

In last week’s state regionals, the Tomahawks raced to an early double-digit lead and rolled past the Hilanders for a 72-51 win. Saturday’s rematch was much more tightly contested, with Kelso (22-6) holding a five-point advantage late in the second quarter.

But Marysville Pilchuck closed the half with five straight points to even the score, then opened the third period with seven straight points to pull in front and seize control.

“It’s amazing, just the culture we have and how everyone cares about each other and bought in,” Kalab said. “And to go out on Rae’s last (game with) a bang, it means so much. I love every one of these guys on this team.”

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