The Wahkiakum boys’ basketball team may have not won a playoff game in five years, but Luke Brown has plenty of experience with postseason success.
The senior wasn’t afraid of the stage of Tuesday’s Southwest 2B District Tournament game, sinking his first five shots and scoring 11 first-quarter points as the Mules romped past South Bend 65-49 on Tuesday in Cathlamet.
“It feels even better to do it at home,” Brown said. “Our last four games we had a motto: secure the six. We just tried to push to win those four games to get the sixth spot and host, and we did.”
Brown finished with 20 points, nine rebounds and five assists and three other Mules scored in double figures to give Wahkiakum its first playoff win since 2014. It was Todd Souvenir’s first playoff win as the boys’ head coach.
“I just came in like a normal game, and the ball just came to me at the beginning of the game a lot. They were going in,” Brown said. “I looked to Evan (Quigley), and was just surprised. I was like ‘It might be a good night for me.’”
A back-and-forth first quarter made way for a 10-0 Mules run in the second quarter. A 31-22 halftime lead had the Mules feeling pretty good about their chances of advancing to Thursday’s district game against Willapa Valley (scheduled for 6 p.m. at Rochester), but a blistering start to the second half sealed it.
Logan LaBerge, Brody Carlson and Jake Leitz each hit 3-pointers and Brown converted an and-1 on the third quarter’s first four possessions. A 14-0 run gave the Mules a 45-22 lead.
From there, it was all about the experience.
“It’s just so exciting to get to play in the district tournament,” Souvenir said. “There’s so many memories. … Coaching my kids, it was all about getting to the state tournament. The first year of being a head coach and not making it to the district tournament, it really made me rethink things. There’s lifelong memories for these guys in the district tournament. There’s things that can happen that you’ll remember forever.”
Quentin Nelson added 12 points, Logan LaBerge had 11 and Jake Leitz put in 10 points and hauled in seven rebounds. Brody Carlson turned in seven points, four assists and four steals.
Wahkiakum’s meeting with Willapa Valley (16-4) on Thursday puts the Mules (9-12) as heavy underdogs, but there’s plenty of history to suggest there’s no guarantees in this tournament.
And the Mules are plenty comfortable buying into that mindset.
“As long as we can stay within reach, and get into a rhythm on offense and turn the tide against a team that’s supposed to be better than us, you never know what can happen,” Souvenir said. “I think they believe that now. We have just as much opportunity as anybody else. You get a couple hot hands, and you can get that rhythm. That’s what I love about basketball, and the sport, and the district tournament. Just the energy and the passion everybody has to play with if you want to be successful. There’s nothing like it for me.”