KELSO — Sometimes, things are just as they seem.
On Wednesday night, Life Christian Academy was just one of those things.
The Eagles were every bit as large as their roster would suggest, every bit as skilled as their record would indicate, and just as tough a matchup for the Cardinals as could be expected.
And after a 63-42 win over Winlock, the Pacific 2B League champion Eagles will be moving on to Saturday’s District 4 2B Boys Basketball Tournament championship game.
“They’re a handful,” Winlock coach Nick Bamer said. “It was tough to contain a racehorse like that, and they’re pretty damn good.”
The Eagles’ speed came from point guard Omari Maulana, who finished with 19 points. Their size was highlighted by 6-foot-5 sophomore center Chae Haynes, who scored 23 with 11 rebounds.
“He’s a load,” Bamer said of Haynes. “He’s massive, and I thought our kids did a really good job of just battling — not only (Haynes), but all of them.”
That size was everywhere, though, including a pair of 6-4 forwards and athletic off-guard Dai’Shaun Nichols. The Eagles held a 32-18 advantage on the glass and shot an efficient 26 of 54 (48%) from the field.
“(We) did a good job of battling, but they’re pretty athletic, and we’re undersized, and undermanned a little bit,” Bamer said. “So what do you do?"
The Eagles ran out to a 15-point lead in the second quarter, but Cardinal guard Bryce Cline banked in a long 3-pointer as the shot clock wound down and another at the second-quarter buzzer to keep Winlock with striking distance (30-19) at halftime.
When things got tight in the second half, though, LCA went inside.
Haynes scored seven straight for the Eagles in the third quarter, then added six points during a 13-0 run in the fourth quarter that put the game out of reach at 63-35.
Cline, who finished with 21 points, was the only Cardinal in double figures. The Central 2B League MVP added six rebounds.
“I think he was ready to go and prove that he can play with anybody,” Bamer said. “It was a big game, a big moment, and we expected him to step up, and he did.”
The loss means Winlock (17-5) plays Wahkiakum in the consolation semifinals Friday night in Rochester. Winlock beat the Mules 56-50 and 68-65 during the regular season.
A win secures a regional bid for Winlock — and, with their high position on the RPI board, likely a berth in the state tournament in Spokane — while a loss means the Cardinals would play for fifth place on Saturday.
“We know what’s at stake,” Bamer said. “We’ve got a couple kids dinged up right now, but I think we’ll be ready to go.”
Life Christian (19-3) won its 15th straight game, dating back to a Christmas break loss to 3A Nathan Hale. The Eagles’ only loss to a 2B team this season came in a forfeit to Pe Ell after LCA was ruled to have used a player for two many quarters between the JV and varsity games.
The Eagles will face Toutle Lake on Saturday night at 8 p.m. at W.F. West High School. The Ducks beat Willapa Valley in Wednesday’s other district semifinal game.