LACEY — Winning at the 2A Southwest District IV tournament has become an expectation for the River Ridge Hawks.
And so has winning district titles.
Led by Brad Wallace’s all-around performance of 24 points, 13 rebounds and four steals, the Hawks claimed their fifth consecutive boys basketball district title Friday night at Saint Martin’s University’s Marcus Pavilion with a 50-47 victory over Mark Morris.
Perhaps it was only fitting for Wallace to be the first player to climb the ladder after the game to cut a string off the net, something he’s done at three previous district title games.
“It feels good every time,” Wallace said.
As champions of District IV, the Hawks will be the No. 1 seed in next Saturday’s regional at Tumwater High School, where they’ll face the No. 6 seed from District 3 at 6 p.m. As runner-up, the Monarchs will be the No. 2 seed, and will face the third seed from Districts 1 and 2 at 4 p.m. Saturday in their regional game, also at Tumwater.
The Monarchs had a chance to send the game into overtime with 3.3 seconds left and possession of the ball, but Tanner Brill’s top-of-the-key 3-pointer with two River Ridge defenders in his face was short just before the buzzer sounded.
River Ridge led for most of the game, but Mark Morris kept it close. The Hawks had a 36-33 lead going into the fourth quarter, but that’s when the Monarchs, champions of the 2A Greater St. Helens League, took their first lead since early in the first quarter. Brill’s bucket in the lane gave Mark Morris a 40-39 advantage with 5:22 remaining. Within two minutes, however, thanks to a free throw by Jonathon Roberts, the Hawks’ lead was 46-41 with less than 4 minutes to go.
As he’s done all season, Wallace put on a show for the estimated 1,400 fans at Marcus Pavilion with his speed and acrobatic play-making. He was 7 of 16 from the floor and 8 of 13 from the free-throw line. One of Wallace’s big plays came after he got his own rebound on a missed second free throw and put the Hawks up 45-39 with a put-back.
Even Mark Morris coach Bill Bakamus, when addressing the crowd accepting his Monarchs’ second-place trophy, acknowledged Wallace and his play in a friendly manner.
“Bradley,” Bakamas said, “I hope we never have to play you again.”
In addition to Wallace’s 24, Kesean Coleman had eight points off the bench and Kobe Key had seven for River Ridge.
The Hawks entered Friday’s game winners of 14 straight district tournament games dating to 2008, when it won its first of what is now five straight District IV titles.
“That’s what we all get excited about and get to play for,” Wallace said. “We pick it up at districts and go.”
Since 2008, the Hawks are 15-0 at district with various players rolling through the program, and even coaches. This is first-year Hawks coach John Barbee’s first district title.
It’s also the 14th consecutive victory for River Ridge (17-6), which was 3-6 overall after Dec. 18.
“They’ve come a long way,” Barbee said. “It’s them. They work hard. It’s a tight senior group. They’re best friends, and they play like it.”
Mark Morris 49, W.F. West 43: In a battle between the top two-ranked teams in Class 2A, the Monarchs of Longview repeated as district champions at Saint Martin’s University. The Monarchs (19-4) will be the district’s No. 1 seed into the regional round of the state tournament next week at Tumwater High School; the Bearcats will be the district’s No. 2 seed, and also will play at Tumwater.
Senior Jamika Parker paced the Bearcats with a game-high 20 points, 14 rebounds and two blocked shots.
Mark Morris held a 35-24 lead late in the third quarter before Parker’s 3-pointer cut the lead to 35-27 going into the fourth quarter. W.F. West got as close as 44-40, including hitting 5 of 6 free throws.