YAKIMA – An overused cliché in sports is that it’s not how many times you get knocked down, it’s how many times you get up.
But clichés are rooted in reality and the Mark Morris boys’ basketball team lived that one out Saturday at the Yakima Valley SunDome. Blown out of the 2A state semifinals by eventual champion Lynden on Friday night, the Monarchs came back less than 24 hours later to claim third place with a 69-59 victory over 2017 champion Foss Falcons.
“There’s been a certain spirt about these kids all year,” said Mark Morris coach Bill Bakamus. “They’ve been as resilient as can be. They’re hard working. They stuck to a plan. We’ve had some ups and downs. The fact we got up off the mat after a disappointing loss yesterday speaks volumes about them.”
Mark Morris (20-7) got off to a strong start with Tanner Vaillencourt scoring the first eight points as the Monarchs grabbed a 17-10 lead after the first quarter. Vaillencourt finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and a pair of assists plus high praise from his coach.
“I’ve been associated with basketball for 36 years and he’s one of the hardest working kids I’ve been around,” Bakamus said. “He has a competitive level that’s unmatched by many of the kids who have ever worn a Mark Morris uniform.”
The Falcons got 36 points from guard Demetrius Crosby, but for the second straight game could not draw a bead from 3-point range, going 2-for-21 from beyond the arc. They had shot just 2 of 22 in Friday night’s semifinal loss to W.F. West.
Nonetheless, the Falcons did lead a couple of times.
Late in the second quarter, a steal and layup by D’von Santa-Cruz put Foss up 24-23. They stayed in front until a barrage of fourth-quarter free throws by the Monarchs sealed the deal. Tyler Berger, who led Mark Morris with 19 points, fueled by 12-of-14 foul shooting, made a pair a minute into the final period to give the Monarchs the lead back, 51-50, and they never relinquished it.
“We knew we had to be more aggressive and not settle. We settled a little bit too much (Friday) night against Lynden and the shots weren’t falling,” Vaillencourt said. “As a team we knew we had height on these guys, they had quickness. We knew if we attacked we could get them in foul trouble and control the game.
“If you take it to them before they take it to you, you’re going to win the game.”
That they did. Of Mark Morris final 22 points, all but a short jumper by Tyler Berger’s twin brother Garrett came from the free-throw line.
“Mark Morris is a good team,” Foss coach Mike Cocke said. “They run their stuff, the Berger twins are good, coach (Bill) Bakamus does a great job. We had our hands full from the beginning, we wanted to speed the game up. We did that for a while, but we could only get one guy going offensively.”
Mark Morris had four players in double figures: Tyler Berger, Garrett Berger with 15, Zach Rismoen with 14 and Vaillencourt with 10.
It’s the Monarchs’ highest finish since 2008, when they also placed third. It also avenges last year’s first-round defeat to Foss.
MM graduates nine including the decorated Berger twins, Rismoen and Vaillencourt. Jaden Blain, Carter Newport, Mason Ringbom, Evan Surface-McNally and Gage Hendrickson also depart.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to identify Gage Hendrickson as the ninth graduating senior for Mark Morris.