OLYMPIA – The Capital Cougars stanched the flow of long-range points by Hockinson in the second half and finally broke open a tight game for a 69-53 victory in the first round of the District IV boys basketball tournament.
The Cougars withstood the attack of Hockinson forward Wyatt Yearout, who hit eight 3-pointers and led all scorers with 26 points.
Senior Keenan Williams led the Cougars with 24 points.
“You don’t shake teams in the playoffs,” Capital coach Dave Mastin said, and it wasn’t until the final period that the Cougars opened some space on the Hawks of the Greater St. Helens League.
Capital (15-6) advances to a 6 p.m. Wednesday game at Centralia against Mark Morris of Longview, the champion of the Greater St. Helens League which defeated Centralia on Friday.
Capital led 15-13 after a frenetic first quarter. In the second quarter, Williams and 6-foot-5 Mat Cox combined for the Cougars’ first 11 points as they took their biggest lead of the half, 26-19.
At that point, Yearout, a 6-foot-3 senior and Hockinson’s leading scorer, warmed up. He hit 3-point baskets on each of the Hawks’ next four possessions as Hockinson pulled into a 28-28 tie.
Jared Eidenmuller answered with some long-range touch of his own for the Cougars, making 3-pointers on the next two Capital possessions. The Cougars led at intermission, 37-35.
Another Yearout 3-pointer pulled Hockinson to 43-42 late in the third quarter before Williams scored the final five points of the quarter on a 3-pointer and jumper in the lane as the Cougars grabbed a 48-42 lead.
In the fourth quarter, Capital created some room to breathe, and this time they held the lead and expanded on it. The Cougars outscored Hockinson, 18-3, to go up 66-45 before Yearout hit two more 3-pointers, his seventh and eighth of the game.
“We let him get away from us a little bit,” Mastin said. “In the second half we did a better job.”
Mastin had high praise for two seniors – Williams and Eidenmuller – who stepped forward with performances the coach called the keys to the game.
“Keenan Williams played like a college player,” Mastin said. “Going hard, taking it to the basket, making good decisions … just outstanding.”
The 5-11 Eidenmuller scored 13 points, but it was his defense on Hockinson’s floor leader, 6-1 junior Alan Haagen (five points), that earned praise from Mastin.
“He was the head of the snake, so to speak, and we cut him off,” Mastin said. “We did a lot of deny (defense) there, and that was Jared.”
Cox did the dirty work down low for Capital, and finished with 12 points, most of them coming on putbacks.
Chandler Yount contributed eight points for the Cougars.