In a foul-laden game — over 40 whistles were blown over the 36 minute contest — W.F. West needed its bench to step up in big moments in a Swamp Cup matchup with Centralia Wednesday in Chehalis.
The hometown Bearcats had led for most of the game, but after Landon Kaut three-point play cut the lead to just three with minutes remaining, the Bearcats got the spark they needed to finish the game from bench guard Seth Hoff.
The reserve got a fastbreak layup to fall in transition, and after missing a free throw, scrapped for possession, gave the ball up to Dirk Plakinger, who gave it right back to Hoff for the game-clinching three-pointer with just under a minute to play.
When all was said and done, the Bearcats pulled out an ugly, 66-57, win over their crosstown rival Tigers Wednesday night.
“The guys off the bench played really gritty defense,” Bearcats coach Chris White said. “I’m really proud of Seth Hoff coming in and being a microwave, instant offense. Guys like Gideon Priest and Evan Tornow, coming in and playing really gritty defense meant a lot to us. We started very slow, those guys got us going.”
The Bearcats (5-3, 3-1 2A EvCo) had three players in double figures, with Plakinger leading the way at 23 points, and Soren Dalan recording a 17-point, 10-rebound double-double, but Hoff’s 17 points and the W.F. West bench made the ultimate difference in a hotly-contested rivalry game.
Though W.F. West kept delivering haymakers, knockout blows that could have kept Centralia down and building up double-digit leads early in the second half, the Tigers never quit. Kaut’s game-high 34 points were a big reason why.
The senior scored from all over the court, and earned the praise of the opposing coaching staff after handling most of the scoring load Wednesday night for the Tigers.
“He really was cooking, he’s a lot to handle out there,” White said of Kaut. “He gets downhill, he can post you, he can shoot it … My hats off to them, they played really, really hard. They didn’t give up at all, they’re playing really good ball.”
But the Tigers (4-5, 1-3 2A EvCo) didn’t hit the shots when they needed to, which cost them a victory on the road.
Centralia shot 5 of 20 from three-point land, and just 14 of 31 from the free throw line in Chehalis.
“We can’t win basketball games if we can’t hit free throws,” Tigers coach Kyle Donahue said. “You can’t get outrebounded and shoot less than 50% from the free throw line and expect to win tight basketball games.”
While Kaut led the way with his scoring acumen, Cole Wasson and Rex Akins earned the praise of Donahue for their floor play and defensive effort. Wasson was tasked for most of the night to contend with W.F. West’s goliath big man Dalan, and mostly kept the post from easy makes.
Though the Tigers are on a bit of a slide after a strong start to the year, they’ve never been out of a game, and their mistakes are easily correctable, per Donahue. They’ll look to correct those mistakes against league-leading Tumwater on Friday.
“We’re competing, we’re fighting, but we can’t win basketball games unless we knock down a couple more threes,” he said. “We're a good shooting team and we just haven’t shot the ball well these past few games, and we have to make free throws.”
Meanwhile, W.F. West will relish a win over its crosstown rival, and look ahead to another rivalry contest against upstart Black Hills on Friday at home. After a back-and-forth contest at home, where the Bearcats played 11 guys who each contributed to the win, they’ll look to continue that momentum Friday night.
“I was really proud of the guys for finding a way in an ugly game,” White said.