TACOMA – Their warm-up shirts bear the phrase “Live the Dream,” and even though the Lynnwood High boys basketball team’s memorable season ended much earlier than it had hoped, in many ways it was a dream season.
“It’s real easy to just cry and say, ‘Oh, we just lost two games,’” Lynnwood coach Landon Porter said Thursday after his Royals fell 64-54 against the West Valley Eagles of Spokane in a loser-out Class 3A state tournament game at Tacoma Dome.
“They worked hard to get to this point,” Porter said of his team, which made the program’s first state tourney appearance in 20 years after winning just one game two seasons ago. “They really lit a fire under our program.”
A trio of seniors, twin guards Jeremy and Nathan Rudd (16 points each) and post Brennen Grubb (11 points, drew four charges), led Lynnwood (16-9 overall). Just as it did in Wednesday’s first-round loss, Lynnwood fell behind by double digits, but rallied in the fourth quarter. The Royals got within five (53-48) with three minutes to play, but versatile 6-foot-4 senior Tyler Hobbs made nine of 10 foul shots in the final 1:24 to seal it for West Valley (20-5).
Hobbs, a University of Montana football recruit as a defensive lineman, tallied a game-high 28 points for West Valley, which placed fourth last year and has participated in four state tourneys since 1999. West Valley plays Ellensburg (18-9) in a loser-out game at 12:30 p.m. today. Both teams still have a chance to place as high as fifth.
West Valley gained control of a close game with a 15-0 second-quarter run and weathered Lynnwood’s late flurry.
“They’re quick (and) they’re athletic,” Hobbs said of Lynnwood. “We knew they’re good enough to make a run and come back. It wasn’t a surprise.” Hobbs made 11 of 13 foul shots and eight of 13 field goals, sparking a West Valley team that shot 48.9 percent from the field (22-for-45). Lynnwood’s pressure defense led to 19 West Valley turnovers, but the Royals made just 19 of 55 field goals (34.5 percent).
Lynnwood’s Porter lamented his team’s poor shooting, but congratulated the Royals, especially the team’s eight seniors, for challenging two talented squads in back-to-back games.
“We played really hard,” Porter said. “They gave their heart and soul to what we were doing.”
Porter called his seniors “the most special group of guys we’ve had around yet. … I can’t be any more proud (of them) than I am right now.”
Lynnwood fell behind by seven points early in the first quarter, but Nathan Rudd scored six to help the Royals get within a point after one quarter. Jeremy Rudd ended the period with an astonishing half-court 3-pointer from the right sideline that banked in off the backboard and cut West Valley’s lead to 17-16.
After surging ahead in the second period, West Valley increased its lead to 12 in the third, but Jeremy Rudd scored four points in the final 1:29 to help get Lynnwood within eight (45-37) heading into the last eight minutes.
Lynnwood’s rally came up short but Nathan Rudd said he’ll eventually look back and appreciate how hard he and his teammates fought.
“We’re gonna look back and think that we did a pretty good job this year.”
Fan power: Lynnwood students packed the stands Wednesday night and several dozen also showed up for Thursday’s loser-out game, though the 2 p.m. scheduled start time seemed to cut down the number of Royals rooters.
Lynwood junior Jeff Sheaffer was one of the fans who made it for the team’s first two games. Donning a bright yellow shirt and a yellow-and-black Pluto the Dog hat on Thursday, Sheaffer said he came “to give (the Royals) hope and cheer them on when they’re down.” Sheaffer said he’s not a huge basketball fan but he’s enjoyed following Lynnwood throughout its outstanding season. “It’s been crazy,” he said.
Crazy certainly described Lynnwood’s late comeback attempt Wednesday night, when the Royals erased an 11-point deficit with less than three minutes to play in the fourth quarter, but eventually lost 51-49 against Franklin Pierce.
“It was just really exciting,” Sheaffer said. “Everybody was on their feet yelling non-stop.”
Taking charge(s): Lynnwood senior post Brennen Grubb drew four charging fouls, all in the second half, against West Valley on Thursday. Grubb, whom Royals coach Landon Porter has called the team’s emotional leader, took an astonishing 53 charges this season. Porter rewards players with a milk shake every time they take a charge and because of Grubb, Porter joked, he’s nearly broke. With all those milkshakes it’s a miracle Grubb moves more like Michael Jordan than Michael Moore.
Head of state: Porter, in his sixth season as Lynnwood’s head coach, played for Mercer Island’s 1993 state-championship team that competed at the Seattle Center Coliseum (now KeyArena). Mercer Island defeated Puyallup, Juanita, Federal Way and Ferris in the state tourney on its way to the title that season.
At the Tacoma Dome
West Valley (Spokane)17151319-64
West Valley-Bradley 15, Swan 10, Toussaint 2, Wieber 4, Hobbs 28, Sherrill 3, Town 2. Lynnwood-J. Rudd 16, N. Rudd 16, Grubb 11, Matzen 2, Prasad 5, Dill 2, Stone 2. 3-point goals-Bradley 3, Hobbs 1, Sherrill 1, J. Rudd 1, Prasad 1. Records-West Valley 20-5 overall. Lynnwood 16-9.