Anything you can do, I can do better.
Jackson Esary didn’t have to say it, but he certainly showed that sentiment late in Kalama’s 77-65 win over Ilwaco in the Southwest 2B District quarterfinals on Wednesday at Ted M. Natt Court.
After a slow start to the contest, the freshman saw Tenyson Ramsey sink a late 3-pointer in the third quarter. A shot that certainly should have given the Fishermen a three-point lead and all the momentum entering the final eight minutes.
Esary did him better.
He caught the ball, turned and launched a 55-foot heave that flew through the basket. Tie ballgame. Esary flexed as his teammates went into a frenzy around him. There was still plenty of work to do, but the freshman lit the fire.
“I just saw the clock, grabbed it, looked at the rim and hucked it,” Esary said. “As soon as I let it go, I was like ‘there’s a chance.’”
Esary scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half to send Kalama (14-8) to the state regionals for the eighth time in nine years.
“He is the consummate competitor,” Kalama coach Wes Armstrong said. “He told me the other day that he gets ticked off when he’s playing ping-pong and losing to his family. He just hates losing. But he has a very calm, cool demeanor.”
Alex Dyer tallied a game-high 25 points in the wild affair, Max Ross finished with 13 and Parker Wood scored 11 to set up a semifinal meeting with Central 2B League champion Toledo on Friday.
“In our locker room, we knew we had the potential to get there,” Armstrong said. “It was just about us gelling, understanding our roles. Making it to regionals is huge. … They knew it would take a lot of work to get there this year, and they put that work in.”
For Ilwaco, it was a heartbreaking defeat. The Fishermen (15-6), in search of their first regional berth since 2011, led for most of the first half. They held a 39-33 halftime lead.
And in two quick minutes, that lead vanished in the third quarter. It was back and forth the rest of the way before Kalama pulled away late.
“You can’t let them hang 77 points on you,” Ilwaco coach Tim Harrell said. “No, I did not think we played well defensively.”
John Glenn finished with 17 points, Alex Kaino tallied 13 and Tenyson Ramsey and Parker Kaech each tallied 11.
It sets up a loser-out game against Adna on Friday, the first of two loser-outs the Fishermen face.
“It’s not the position we wanted to be,” Harrell said.