With half a minute to go in W.F. West High School’s loser-out first-round game at the Class 2A state tournament, Jordan Thomas lay on the hardwood watching a teammate miss a follow to his own errant layup that would have given the Bearcats a lead over North Kitsap.
About 20 minutes later, Thomas walked out of W.F. West’s locker room at the Yakima Valley SunDome into a crowd of at least 200 Bearcats fans chanting his name.
In one of the craziest finishes a high school basketball game could have, Thomas’ free throw with 1.7 seconds left in overtime finished off a 60-59 victory over the sixth-ranked Vikings that had multiple heroes and sent No. 9 W.F. West into a quarterfinal matchup with Selah at 9 p.m. Thursday.
With North Kitsap taking as much as a 14-point lead during an explosive 25-point second quarter, a Bearcats comeback didn’t look like the safest bet.
But after coach Chris White “got into them pretty good” at halftime, W.F. West cut the Vikings 3-point shooting from 50 percent before intermission to 25 percent after.
“We weren’t contesting their shooters, that’s what we changed in the second half,” said Thomas, who finished with 16 points, nine rebounds and seven steals.
As cold as they turned North Kitsap’s shooters, the Bearcats (22-4) saw their own long-range bombers heat up.
Brandon White, who also collected 12 rebounds, scored 10 third-quarter points on his way to a team-high 18 and Tyler Speck knocked down a pair of second-half 3-pointers.
“That gave us so much momentum,” Thomas said. “Being able to kick out to them was critical to cutting into their lead.”
Four times, though, W.F. West cut the Vikings lead to one possession in the fourth quarter, but couldn’t tie or go ahead. But after Thomas’ missed layup and a pair of free throws by North Kitsap’s Zac Olmsted made it 57-54, the pieces of a memorable upset fell into place for W.F. West.
First, Thomas drove the lane to cut the lead to one, making a layup. Then, rushing to get the ball in-bounds, North Kitsap turned the ball over and fouled Thomas.
He missed the first of two free throws and the Vikings called time out to ice him.
It didn’t work.
“It gave me time to relax, to take a drink of water and stay calm,” he said.
The second shot swished and the game headed into a cautiously-played overtime in which neither team made a field goal. Bailey Cooper gave the Bearcats the first lead, sinking a pair of free throws a minute before the end, but Ryan Hecker, who moments before had missed a pair, countered with two of his own.
That set up Thomas’ second heroic free throw, again on the second of a pair, this time with only 1.7 seconds to play.
Chris White hasn’t seen many victories he’s relished more.
“It’s right at the top, these guys have come so far,” he said. “When I started coaching, we had been 0-21 the year before I got here. I’ve been able to get them to buy into our system. I’m just so proud of them.”
NO. 6 NORTH KITSAP
NO. 9 W.F. WEST
NK – Olmsted 10, Zinn 3, Warren 12, Hecker 6, Humphrey 10, Mcmillan, Chmielewski 4, King 14
WFW – Wollan 1, Thomas 16, B. White 18, C. White 10, Cooper 10, Yarter 0, Dobyns 5, Speck 6