It was an epic struggle for the top of the Central Washington 2B boys’ basketball league standings last Friday (Jan. 26), as the Lake Roosevelt Raiders held off a furious finish by the visiting Liberty Bell squad to claim a 72-66 win.
A packed gym on the Coulee Dam campus included a vocal Mountain Loud crowd on Senior Night for the Raiders, which included a darkened arena, spotlights highlighted in red, imitation smoke and an emotional ceremonial honor prayer. It was the stuff of high school rivalry from beginning to end.
The first quarter found both teams struggling offensively against solid defenses. Liberty Bell closed the quarter on a bit of a flurry, with Bodie Thomson’s twine tickling three-pointer from the left angle to go up 13-12. But the Raiders responded with a free throw to tie the game at 13 going into the second period.
An early three-pointer for the Raiders sent the home team on a run that would find them up by 15 points at 32-17 with three minutes left in the first half. The Mountain Lions would claw their way back into the reasonable range. A Lucien Paz three with 23 seconds remaining closed the gap to six points at 36-30. The Raiders responded with a quick, buzzer-beating drive down the lane for two and a 38-30 intermission lead.
The Raiders built on that lead, eventually expanding it to more than 20 points with a late third-quarter rally. With two minutes left in the third quarter and the Mountain Lions down by a reasonable 11 points at 45-34, Lucien Paz was hit with an intentional foul call on Lake Roosevelt’s Chase Marchand during a layup off a fast break.
Marchand’s shot fell through the hoop for two, he hit one of the two free throws, and Marchand added two more off the inbounds pass to run the lead to 16 points at 50-34.
A Liberty Bell turnover led to a lay-in by Brandon Pino for an 18-point Raider lead. After an exchange of turnovers, the ejection of a Raider fan, a Lake Roosevelt foul and a Liberty Bell technical, the Raiders led 54-34 with a minute to go in the third.
At 4:41 left in the game, Lake Roosevelt would register its biggest lead, points, 62-39. Then the comeback began for Liberty Bell.
Quick scores by Remi Paz, Raiff Reichert and Kyler Mitchell cut the lead to 16 points.
More Lake Roosevelt turnovers and productive responses from the Mountain Lions’ offense prompted the Raiders to take timeout with 2:49 left, holding a 15 point, 62-47 lead.
Then it became Remi-Time. An acrobatic lay-in by the sophomore guard cut the Raider lead to 13. Paz forced a turnover on the sidelines and followed with a jumper for two and a three-point bomb.
Kyler Mitchell intervened with a three-point play, then it was back to a Remi-forced turnover on the inbounds. Paz found Bodie Thomson on the perimeter for an open three, and with 1:04 remaining, what seemed impossible had progressed to improbable to unlikely, to a five-point deficit with just under one minute to go.
It looked like Mac Surface and Mitchell had Pino trapped near mid-court, but overly aggressive handwork drew a foul on Mitchell, sending Pino to the line for two successful free throws to stretch the lead back to seven. Mitchell went up for a long, off-balance looking shot that nonetheless swished, cutting the margin to 67-63 with :38 showing.
But that was all the closer Liberty Bell would get and the clock ran out. The gallant comeback fell just short 72-66, despite a final trey by Mac Surface with :21 to go.
After the drama of that fourth quarter, coach Ryan Surface was upbeat. “The boys proved to themselves they could play with the No. 1 team in the state. It gives us some confidence going into districts and, hopefully, gives us some momentum,” the coach said.
Adding two victories this week over Bridgeport and Manson, and a probable third on Tuesday after press time as Oroville visited the Den, Liberty Bell finishes the season with a 9-1 league record, 13-3 overall and as the No. 6-ranked team in this week’s Washington 2B RPI standings.
The Lake Roosevelt loss dropped the Mountain Lions into second place overall in the Central Washington 2B League. As the top team in the second tier, will have a No. 3 seed into the District 6 tournament this weekend, with Liberty Bell hosting Okanogan on Friday (Feb. 2). Tipoff is at 6 p.m. in the Lions’ Den.