Black Hills trailed for most of the game – including by double digits during the third quarter – but the Wolves slowly fought their way back, converting on key possessions and stopping the Roughriders on the defensive end.
The Wolves had the momentum and a one-point lead with 2 minutes, 41 seconds remaining, but Port Angeles hit nine free throws over the final 1:31 and put an end to Black Hills’ season with a 57-49 victory at Mount Tahoma High School.
With their team at full strength during the postseason, the Wolves (8-16) surprised everyone but themselves, qualifying for their first state game in school history.
Of the team’s eight wins, two came at the 2A Southwest District IV tournament – upsets of Hockinson and Tumwater that put the Wolves in the regional round of the state tournament. Black Hills’ eight wins are the fewest of any 2A state-qualifying team since the classification was created in 1997.
“We peaked at the right time,” said senior Jared Pauly, who finished with 10 points, all in the second half. “There were so many things out of our control during the season, and all of it ended once we hit the playoffs. Everything clicked right at Hockinson.”
Anye Turner had a game-high 18 points and registered six blocks, but he fouled out with 1:11 left in the game and Black Hills trailing, 47-44. He was called for a foul on Port Angeles’ Cameron Braithwaite and was immediately called for a technical foul.
Within an eight-second span, what was a three-point deficit turned into eight at 52-44 – all on free throws. As a team, Port Angeles converted 21 of 27 free throws, including 14 in the fourth quarter.
Port Angeles (19-8) built a 26-17 lead at halftime after going on an 11-0 run while Turner was on the bench for close to four minutes.
Turner was in foul trouble all game. He picked up his second foul in the closing seconds of the first quarter and didn’t re-enter the game until 5:09 remained in the first half. The Wolves, who led 13-7 after the first quarter, were held scoreless in the second until Turner’s bucket with 2:04 left cut their deficit to 22-15.
“I don’t know if it was the time off, but we only played one good half of basketball, and it takes two to win at this game, especially at this level,” Black Hills coach Jamie Berg said. “Everyone is good, and everyone wants it.”
Black Hills’ second-half run started in the closing seconds of the third quarter with back-to-back buckets by Seth Bray and Dan Cunningham.
The Wolves took their first lead since the first quarter at 44-43 on Pauly’s putback with 2:41 left, but after that, the Roughriders scored their final 14 points from the free-throw line.
“Still, even in defeat, these kids are capable of winning a lot of games,” Berg said. “In the last three games, we’ve come out and put together a complete game. Tonight, we didn’t.”