The late comeback fell short, but that didn’t discourage Justin Gwinn.
With seven seconds to play on Thursday night, in his final home game, the Northwest Christian High School senior sunk a 3-pointer.
That trimmed a deficit that was once as high as 15 points down to four, but the Navigators ran out of time, and eighth-ranked Ilwaco escaped Lacey with a 51-47 victory.
But this Class 2B Pacific League regular season finale still isn’t sour for Northwest Christian.
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Next week, the Navigators — the league’s sixth seed — will travel south to play the No. 3 seed out of the 2B Central League in the 2A Southwest District tournament.
“That was a huge goal for this team,” Gwinn said. “Last year, we barely missed it. We saw teams we played close make it. We wanted it, and we went after it this year.”
Gwinn, and fellow seniors Peter Kosierowski and Bryan McNair, will advance to the playoffs for the first time in their high school careers.
“I think they’ve got good hustle and heart,” Northwest Christian coach Tom Gwinn said of this year’s squad.
“They play for each other, and that’s what shows.”
The Navigators (10-10, 7-9 2B Pacific) managed only five points in the third quarter — after keeping the Fisherman close in the first half — and lost their leading scorer.
Northwest Christian’s Noah Phillips, a freshman, was averaging 22.2 points per game entering Thursday. He’s among the top three scorers in the area.
Phillips scored six points before he took a bump to his left hip midway through the third. He spent the rest of the game on the bench with an ice pack.
“We played great against them without our leading scorer, so I feel like that was good plus,” Tom Gwinn said.
That’s when the team, without its leader, took over.
“That’s what I like about this team,” Justin Gwinn said. “We always come back. A lot of our closer games we were down by quite a bit and we came back, which will (make) us good for playoff time.”
Gwinn, who scored a team-high 14 points, scored a basket at the end of the third that kicked off a 13-2 Navigators run.
McNair scored nine of his 13 points during the fourth quarter, including seven consecutive points midway through the fourth.
But, Ilwaco had an answer.
Ethan Bannister, who scored 12 points for the Fisherman, drilled a 3-pointer with one minute, 24 seconds remaining to push the game back to three possessions.
Alex Kaino scored a team-high 14 points for Ilwaco, and the Fisherman (16-4, 13-3) overcame the 23 turnovers they committed, and strings of poor shooting, to seal the win.
“Our game plan was to watch the perimeter,” Justin Gwinn said. “They killed us on 3-pointers the last game, so we wanted to make sure we were rushing them.”
It just wasn’t quite enough.
Northwest Christian begins its bid in the double-elimination district tournament at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
Tom Gwinn said this year’s team has a good chemistry, and has shown commitment to the team.
“They show up, they play every day,” he said. “They practice hard, they play hard, and they pray hard.”
Capital’s Well coaches final game
Colleen Wells coached her final game for the Capital High School girls basketball team at home on Friday to a 56-27 loss to Gig Harbor.
But what really matters to coach Wells is how well she coaches her players to be better people.
“What I do is for the kids, I get a lot of reward and good feeling for what they accomplish,” said coach Wells. “ I am going to miss making kids better as people. I've always preached respect for the game, teammates and officials.”
Wells started her coaching careers in the late 1970s as an assistant track coach at Soap Lake High School in Soap Lake. From there, she transitioned from a volleyball coach at Marysville-Pilchuk High School to a junior high basketball coach in Montesano.
After a long break, she landed as a junior varsity coach at Capital in 1997 before taking over the program in 2001.
“It is hard to be both a coach and a teacher,” Wells said. “I am an English teacher and there are papers to correct on top of watching film and doing scouting for the ten weeks that we play. But I also have gotten used to playing deep into the playoffs too.”
In fact, her favorite moment in coaching comes from the Cougars’ 2010 tournament run when after losing to Chadle Park by very little, they came back and earned 5th place.
“We played [the Panthers] and were down by 17 at the half. We changed our defense and we started scratching back,” Wells said. “One of my players said ‘we are going to win’ and we won by one that game. The next game when we played was against Yelm (for the fourth time). With six seconds left to go, they missed a free throw, we rebounded and laid in a buzzer beater, that put us in the trophy round.”
Eventually, the Cougars would win 5th place that year, Wells’ highest ever finish at the state tournament.
After retirement, Wells plans to finally relax by taking care of her grandchildren in the Tri-Cities.
I – Tapio 9, Woods 8, Kaino 14, Te. Ramsey 3, Bannister 12, Merino-Ortiz 3, Tynkila 2
NC – Fox 8, Kosierowski 2, Sinclair 2, Dominguez 2, Gwinn 14, McNair 13