LACEY - Black Hills was unquestionably the surprise team in this year's Class 2A District IV boys basketball tournament, but when it was all said and done, River Ridge remained the champion.
You can credit a Charlie Connor driving layup for that.
Connor’s bucket in traffic with 9 seconds remaining proved decisive in the district- title game as the Hawks edged the upstart Wolves, 48-47, at Saint Martin’s University’s Marcus Pavilion on Friday.
“I was just trying to get to the hoop,” said Connor, who was hobbled with a sore left ankle and had not scored in the second half up to that crucial bucket. “I was thinking I’d either make it or get fouled and get to the line, whichever helped our team win tonight. It’s all pretty unbelievable right now.”
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Despite being the fifth-place team out of the Evergreen Conference, Black Hills (8-15) was in a great position to win as it grabbed a 47-46 lead with about a minute to play on Jake Crawford’s field goal from the top of the lane that just beat the shot- clock buzzer.
Following Connor’s heroics, the Wolves were unable to get a shot off before turning the ball over.
Both teams advance to the regional round of the state tournament, which begins next Friday.
“We’re far from out of it,” said Black Hills coach Jamie Berg. “That’s a very good team we played tonight, and we were right there at the end. A play here or there and it’s a different story, but this team still has a lot of basketball left.”
Rahmel Moton was one of three players in double figures for River Ridge (18-5), which won its third consecutive district crown. He scored 15 points, while Connor added 11 and Brad Wallace chipped in 10.
Nico Hudson paced the Wolves with 13 points. Anye Turner and Jared Pauly scored 10 apiece.
A wild third quarter featured eight lead changes and four ties.
The Hawks took a 42-36 lead on a Wallace 3-pointer with 61/2 minutes remaining before Black Hills charged back, sparked by Turner’s thunderous fastbreak dunk.
A 3-pointer by Drew Davoe cut the Wolves’ deficit to 46-45 with 31/2 to play.
Both teams went scoreless over the next 21/2 minutes before Crawford’s bucket gave Black Hills the lead late.
River Ridge 68, Tumwater 61: Jasmine McDonald, the Evergreen Conference MVP, simply took over the game on both ends of the court in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 of her game-high 21 points to help the Hawks clinch their second consecutive district girls championship.
River Ridge, the defending 2A state champion, also got 19 points from Jennifer Cole and 13 from Kelsey Russell as the Hawks won their 19th straight game to improve to 21-3.
“I just told the girls midway through that fourth quarter that they were the defending state champions and go out there and play like that,” River Ridge coach Tom Kelly said. “That’s exactly what they did.”
And it was needed as Tumwater (18-4) was game throughout, holding a slim lead with 6 minutes to play.
“I wanted to see us attack out there, push the ball up the court (in the fourth quarter). We did that early in the game and had success with it, but didn’t start doing that again until the fourth,” said Kelly, who is 45-4 in two seasons at River Ridge. “I think it’s what won the game for us. I think we wore them down towards the end.”
While McDonald was providing the scoring in the final quarter, Cole was controlling the boards.
“It was everyone tonight,” Kelly said. “We needed that. We were in trouble. Jasmine played about as good as we’ve seen at both ends tonight, and the rest of the team really stepped up down the stretch.”
River Ridge held a seemingly comfortable 20-11 advantage, but Tumwater inched back into the game, which was tied at 49 heading into the fourth quarter.
Mackenzie Cooper led the T-Birds with 14 points. Katie Bergquist added 13, and Jordyn Richardson had 11.
Both squads advance to the regional round of the state tournament.
River Ridge plays the No. 2 seed from District II/III, while Tumwater meets the sixth seed from District II/III in a loser-out game Friday.