TACOMA – Early on, the Snohomish Panthers were making plenty of mistakes, yet still they managed to convert enough baskets to build a lead they held for most of the first half.
In the second half, the mistakes continued – turnovers were the most obvious sin – and the lead vanished, leaving the Panthers in need of a near-miracle in the late moments.
Somehow, it happened.
Snohomish erased a nine-point deficit in the final 31/2 minutes and came away with a 50-47 victory over Prairie Wednesday night in a first-round game at the Class 4A state boys basketball game at the Tacoma Dome.
”The coach gets no credit,” said a relieved Len Bone, Snohomish’s coach, after the game. ”The kids really hung in there. Things didn’t look good. I thought we were in bad shape. But you’ve got to keep playing and we were fortunate.”
Snohomish won despite 19 turnovers, including five in the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, seemingly ending the Panthers’ hopes for a comeback.
Yet they pulled it off, and two players in particular insured the Panthers will advance to a quarterfinal game tonight against South Kitsap, which defeated Southridge 56-50 in an earlier Wednesday game.
Senior guard Seth Follis kept Snohomish in the game for the first 31/2 quarters and at times seemed to carry the Panthers on his shoulders, on his way to a game-high 25 points. And junior forward Tim Diedrichs, who saved his best for last, scoring seven points of his 14 points in the final 1:39, including the team’s last five points.
Snohomish trailed 47-41 with 1:50 remaining when Prairie guard Mark Dornik dropped in two free throws. Diedrichs promptly responded with a 15-foot jumper from the right baseline. The Panthers then forced a turnover, Follis was fouled and his two free throws brought Snohomish within two points.
Again the Panthers turned up their defensive pressure, forcing another turnover, and at the offensive end Diedrichs completed perhaps the play of the game for Snohomish. Taking a pass from teammate Tanner Jenkins, who had drawn the defense with a drive into the middle, Diedrichs slipped to the basket for a layin and a foul with 47 seconds showing.
His subsequent free throw put Snohomish on top 48-47 and set up a frantic final few seconds.
Prairie, located in Brush Prairie and representing the Greater Saint Helens League, put the ball in the hands of senior guard Orlandor Westbrooks, the team’s top scorer and best player. He got off a shot that bounced off the rim and into the hands of teammate Michael Hamburg, whose putback try bounced tantalizingly on the rim and came off.
This time Diedrichs, using all of his 6 foot 8 inches, stretched for the rebound and was fouled. He again dropped in a pair of chances with just over a half-minute to play, giving Snohomish its eventual winning three-point margin.
In the final seconds, the Snohomish defense disrupted Prairie’s bid for a game-tying 3-point shot. The Falcons were forced to call a timeout with 1.5 seconds on the clock and on the in-bounds play they managed a desperation toss by guard Westbrooks that was well wide of the basket.