YAKIMA – Thursday’s 44-43 Mark Morris victory started as if it would follow a typical winning formula for the Monarchs boys’ basketball team.
A 3-point basket by Garrett Berger started the scoring, his brother Tyler hit a couple more and the Monarchs were up 11-6 over Renton and apparently cruising in their 2A State quarterfinal game at the Yakima Valley SunDome. But with 2:30 left in the first quarter, Renton’s Malik Coats converted a fast break layup and an and-one free throw to give the Indians a one-point lead.
Mark Morris wouldn’t lead again until the end. The very end.
Trailing by as many as 9 points midway through the fourth quarter and shooting just 5-for-26 from 3-point range, the Monarchs finally clicked. Tyler Berger hit a 3, then, with 1:08 to play, after the fifth offensive rebound of the possession, he hit another to cut Renton’s lead to 43-42.
Fouled intentionally, Renton’s Jaloni Gardner went to the foul line for a one-and-one that could have given the Indians a needed cushion. He missed.
Dawson Fritz drove into the lane for Mark Morris, dished to Zach Rismoen, who upfaked and scored with 3.1 seconds to play, putting the Monarchs up for the first time since those early moments, 44-43. A time out by each team set up a last-gasp bomb by Renton’s Jaden Locke from beyond mid-court that brushed the net, but was too short.
Rismoen admits he’d never made a game-winner in his life.
“It feels awesome,” he said. “It wasn’t meant for me to take the shot, it was meant to go out to one of the twins for an outside shot. Dawson took it to the middle, my guy went over to help out and he read it perfectly. I knew they liked to jump so I gave a fake, got fouled and the basket went in.”
Coach Bill Bakamus pointed to his team weathering its poor offense by sticking to business at the other end of the court.
“Renton’s a very athletic team, they got in our passing lanes, got a lot of tips, got a lot of loose balls,” he said. “Our saving grace was that defensively we were keeping them in front of us and we did a pretty good job on the boards.”
When the Monarchs realized they were in the midst of a difficult shooting night, guards Fritz and Tanner Vaillencourt began taking the ball to the basket off the dribble.
“It’s a game of taking what they give you,” Bakamus said. “They took our very best shot early, so we had to change our game plan. Once we became more aggressive in the last four minutes our whole attitude changed.”
Tyler Berger led Mark Morris with 16 points, while Garrett Berger scored 13, despite the brothers going a combined 6-for-22 from 3-range. Vaillencourt scored just five points, but contributed 8 rebounds and 4 assists, both team highs.
Coats paced Renton with 11 while Romero Otero tallied 10.