Kamiak advances to state tournament, heads to Tacoma Dome | Boys basketball

Knights overcome 14-point deficit to stun Kentwood in 4A regional game
By David Pan | Feb 28, 2018
Photo by: David R Pan Kamiak’s Carson Tuttle drives to the hoop for a layup during a 4A state regional playoff game against Kentwood Saturday, Feb. 24, at Auburn Mountainview High School.

Kamiak coach Cory West didn’t have much to say to his players.

The Knights had just played one of their worst first halves of the season against defending state champion Kentwood in a 4A state regional boys basketball playoff game. Kamiak trailed 24-10 at halftime.

“I just said, ‘You guys have worked too hard to get here,’” West said.

So the Knights went back to work in the third quarter.

Senior Carson Tuttle scored 10 of his game-high 23 points and Patrick Olson added 7 points, as Kamiak outscored the Conquerers 17-4 to erase the 14-point deficit and to head into the final period down by only 1 point – 28-27.

Senior Daniel Sharpe later scored the go-ahead basket with 42 seconds remaining and the Knights survived a last second 3-point shot attempt to pull out a stunning 41-38 victory Saturday, Feb. 24, at Auburn Mountainview High School.

Kamiak (16-8) advances to the state tournament for the first time since its only other appearance in 2005. The Knights face Union (21-6) in a loser-out game at 3:45 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 28, in the Tacoma Dome.

“It’s huge for our community as a whole and for our school,” Tuttle said. “That’s what we’ve been trying to accomplish in the last four years, is getting to the Tacoma Dome and we managed to do it.”

Kamiak came up a game short the last two years, losing at state regionals.

“After getting knocked out of regionals the last two years, this feels so good,” said Olson, who was awarded a sportsmanship medallion after Saturday’s game.

The victory didn’t come easily with the Knights misfiring on shot after shot to start out the game.

All the team had to show in the first quarter was one basket and one free throw by Tuttle.

“We were timid,” West said. “We were just looking for Carson. I think a lot of guys saw bright lights.”

The second quarter didn’t go much better for Kamiak, who wasn’t able to make up any ground against Kentwood. The Conquerers outscored the Knights 15-7.

Throughout the regular season, the Knights tended to play better when they were fired up and that’s how they came out in the third quarter.

“We were able to pick it back up and start playing with some passion,” Olson said. “We just worked for this all year. We were ready.”

Tuttle scored back-to-back baskets with a free throw and Olson followed him with two buckets before Tuttle hit a 3-pointer to slice the Kentwood lead to 26-22 with 3:18 remaining in the third quarter. Olson made one of two free throws and a shot, and Tuttle had a putback basket to close out the period and the Knights trailed 28-27.

“In the first half they came out and they hit us first,” Tuttle said. “It’s a game of runs and they had the first run in the first half. We just preached at halftime that we wanted to come out with more intensity than they did in the first half and more aggressiveness. … We were more mentally rocking at the beginning of the second half.”

Kentwood opened the fourth quarter on a 5-0 run before Kamiak senior Conner Fitpatrick responded with a basket. Kamiak tied the score at 33 when senior Braden Leary hit a shot, and Tuttle followed with a layup at the 2:42 mark.

Kentwood retook the lead, 35-33 on two free throws by Anjaylo Lloyd before Tuttle again tied the score with a pull-up baseline jumper. After a defensive stop, Sharpe scored to give the Knights a 37-35 lead.

Tuttle later was fouled and made both free throws to extend the Kamiak advantage to 39-35 with 23 seconds to go.

Kentwood senior D’angelo Minnis responded with a 3-pointer to slice the Knights’ lead to 39-38 with 7.5 seconds remaining. The Conquerers again fouled Tuttle, who calmly made both free throws and the Kamiak advantage again was back up to 3 points. 41-38.

“Big players make big plays in big games,” West said of Tuttle’s key free throws. “That’s why the ball was in his hands.”

Minnis attempted the final shot of the night, a potential game-tying 3-pointer that missed the mark and the Knights’ reserves spilled out onto the court to celebrate with their teammates.

A large contingent of fans made the hour-long drive to Auburn and their support made a difference.

“The fan base we had tonight was amazing,” Tuttle said. “That really propelled us in the second half. Every time we scored the ball, got a defensive stop, hearing our fans cheer for us just gave us that much more energy to keep fighting.”

 

10 YEARS IN THE MAKING: Kamiak’s 4A state regional victory over Kentwood left coach Cory West a little emotionally drained. West, who is in his 10th year as head coach, remembered the challenges of his first season. “Our first year as a program when I took over, we were 1-19,” he said. West remembered all the hard work put in by previous players leading up to Saturday’s victory. “For this group of guys to actually overcome a 24-10 deficit and come back and win, it’s a storybook ending for these guys,” West said. “It’s not an ending. It’s a storybook finish. We’re not done.

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