Hodges Bailey reset the record books before Centralia High School played Columbia River on Saturday night for the final spot in the Class 2A state regionals.
By the time the game finished, Bailey broke two 2A Southwest District IV tournament records — the single-game record, and the four-game record — to help keep the Tigers’ season afloat.
“It’s been a rough couple of years with having to miss last year (with an injury),” Bailey said. “The Lord really blessed me this tournament. The flood gates opened, and it paid off.”
Bailey, a senior, tied the four-game record three games into the tournament. He scored 26 in Centralia’s tournament opener against Columbia River.
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Even when Centralia (17-8) bumped into seventh-ranked Mark Morris (18-5) in the semifinals, Bailey starred in the loss.
He shot 13 of 21 (62 percent) from the field — including eight 3-pointers — and 8 of 9 (89 percent) from the free throw line to finish with 42 points.
Bailey tied Centralia’s single-game record set by Lewis Lofton, and easily passed the tournament record of 35 points, set by North Thurston’s Landon Rushton in 2012.
Centralia coach Kyle Donahue thought Bailey might be getting close to something after that performance.
“Is he capable of it? Absolutely,” Donahue said. “Does he need to get his points for us to be successful? Yeah, he’s our leading scorer and our go-to guy.”
Then, in the most pivotal game of Centralia’s season against eighth-ranked Tumwater, Bailey dropped another 23 points.
That gave him 91 total, and he tied the four-game tournament record with North Thurston’s Ben Broeker (2012) in just three.
But records aside, the points scored weren’t the most important factor against Tumwater on Thursday night.
“For me, it had been six straight losses,” Bailey said. “I had never beat them in my high school career. Every year, it was two losses in league.”
The Tigers hadn’t beaten the T-Birds since 2014 — before Bailey attended Centralia — until Thursday. And early on, it appeared the losing streak would stretch to seven games.
During the first half, the Tigers weren’t locked in according to Bailey, which contributed to a deficit that reached as many as 19 points.
“We had nothing to lose, we were just going after it,” Bailey said. “We competed, and that’s the bottom line. Our season was on the line, and we had to.”
Bailey scored 11 points in the fourth quarter as part of a late rally, and Centralia eliminated Tumwater from the tournament with a 57-52 win.
“The way we won was representative of Tiger basketball,” Donahue said. “To get that victory and move on was impactful for the coaches and the kids.”
Several possessions in a row, Bailey said the team’s flex-cut offensive scheme led to easy layups, and triggered the comeback.
The win left Donahue in tears.
He said the late-season spark has been emotional for coaches after longtime coach Ron Brown, 82, opted to take a leave of absence for health reasons in January.
“Coach Brown built this,” Bailey said. “We’re just the ones using the template he left.”
Brown said he’s followed the team from afar, and will continue to do so as the Tigers make their run through the state playoffs.
“We started the season thinking we could do just what we’ve done,” Brown said.
Brown said Bailey has always been expected to be the catalyst.
“I thought he’d carry us because of what he did his sophomore year, and what he did in six games last year,” Brown said. “He was really the key.”
Brown and Donahue agree the last handful of games was when Bailey really caught fire. Brown says Bailey has looked like the “Hodges of old.”
“Early in the season, I think he forced it a lot,” Donahue said. “I don’t know if it was a matter of not knowing what to expect, and who we could get the other points from.
“As a result of that, he really didn’t shoot well at the beginning of the season. He didn’t shoot well and he shot a lot.”
Donahue said the two discussed dropping the attempts to make sure Bailey had more quality tries.
“Over the last seven or eight games, it’s been a lot better, and it’s been a lot smoother,” Donahue said. “His shot selection has been better.”
Centralia has won seven of its past eight games, and Bailey has been the area’s leading scorer for the majority of the season.
Entering the state playoffs, he has scored 618 points and averaged 26.9 per game. He’s one of only two players in the area to hit the 600-point mark this season. North Thurston’s Clay Christian is the other.
“He — the last five, six, seven games — has got back into a confident shooting rhythm,” Brown said. “That’s really what’s helped carry us.”
Bailey needed one basket to take sole ownership of the district record when the Tigers played Columbia River for the second time on Saturday.
He went ahead and scored 36 points — finishing the tournament with 127 — to send Centralia back to the state playoffs for the first time since 2015.
“My teammates did a great job of finding me, and they also scored as well, so that always opens up everything,” Bailey said. “Hard work paid off.”
Bailey said the Tigers — who typically rotate seven players during games — will regroup this week, take a breath, and then get ready for regionals.
“I always knew the kids had the potential to do it,” Donahue said. “It was really a matter of when they were going to start jelling.
“We had pieces in place. I never doubt their effort … it’s just a matter of playing together as a team.”
Centralia plays Prosser (15-9) at 6 p.m. Saturday at W.F. West for a trip to Yakima.
“The focus at practice is just going to be doing what we do,” Donahue said. “We got here playing team ball, and we’ve got to continue that momentum we had going through districts.”
The Mustangs upset top-ranked Clarkston — the two-time defending 2A champion — in a crossover game last weekend, eliminating the Bantams from the playoffs.
“Everyone’s good this time of year,” Bailey said. “You’ve got to compete. Nothing is easy.”