TACOMA — Kelso revved its engine and roared back from a significant deficit with electric defense.
That alone wasn’t enough, though, as the Hilanders lost 63-47 to Eastside Catholic on Thursday in the 3A State Boys’ Basketball Tournament. The loss puts Kelso (21-5) in an elimination game against O’Dea (24-5) at 9 a.m. Friday at the Tacoma Dome.
“I thought we showed every bit of mettle that we have, and deserved to be that floor,” Kelso coach Joe Kinch said. “I think the longer the kids were on the floor, the more they understood it and the more they grew to it. I was really proud of how we responded.”
A 12-all tied score after the first quarter made way to a big run for Eastside Catholic, which scored 24 second-quarter points against Kelso’s 12. The Hilanders were in a tough spot, but didn’t break.
Kelso came out of the locker room to deny the Crusaders a field goal over the first three minutes of the third quarter, and mounted a 12-2 run.
Within four points of Eastside Catholic, the Scots could taste their first lead since the opening minutes.
“It was very encouraging,” junior forward Shaw Anderson said. “We said in the locker room that we needed to come out and go on a 6-0 run and cut it to six points by the fourth quarter.”
The Eastside Catholic firepower proved to be too much, though, and the Crusaders accumulated an 11-point lead with just under four minutes left in the game. With two minutes left, Hilanders starters were pulled from the floor.
Kinch told players they shouldn’t hang their heads during the team’s postgame talk, and touched on some of the team accomplishments.
“I thought they had a really great shot selection,” Kinch said. “They took some great shots. I thought our first four were really good looks and they rimmed in and out, but I really liked the rhythm we were in and sometimes even good shots don’t go in.”
Anderson tallied 17 points, Reece Tack added 10 points and Emmitt Kinch finished with eight. Tack and Anderson grabbed five boards each, as Tack also was credited with three pickpockets.
The defensive intensity also impressed Kinch. Peyton Noah forced five turnovers with two steals, leading to eight points for Kelso and was a major factor in Kelso’s third-quarter comeback bid.
“We had six consecutive stops in one series and then we also had a set of five consecutive stops,” Kinch said. “You don’t get to this level and play teams that aren’t worthy of being here.”
A win Friday over No. 2-ranked O’Dea would guarantee Kelso its best finish since 1950.
“We don’t want to go home yet. We didn’t come here just to be here,” Anderson said. “We want to be here and win games. So we’re going to go out and we’re going to play.”