There’s this little lobby outside of Kelso’s main gym that acts as a sort of antechamber. It’s carpeted. The walls are adorned with relics of past students who have played anywhere in the Major Leagues or the Pac-12 or whatever.
Wednesday night it housed seven framed jerseys — each with name and number — as the Hilanders celebrated Senior Night for its boys. This was the last chance they had to play in front of their home crowd, with the band, and the halftime contest where someone can win multiple pizzas with a halfcourt shot.
It’s what made the result sting so much more.
Mountain View, which was already eliminated and playing for simply pride and fun, beat Kelso 86-71, getting 29 points from Austin Lee and 26 from Mason Wulf.
“To take a loss like that on Senior Night kinda doubles down on (the disappointment)," Kelso coach Joe Kinch said. "The saving grace is that's not our last game. We get to play in the playoffs, get to correct the things we were a little inefficient with (Wednesday night) and get back to work."
There was a moment, if brief and fleeting, where the Hilanders showed some life. And if things had bounced differently, the game could have followed suit.
Gage Tippery worked really hard for a steal, poking it away from Lee then diving on the court to start a fast break. Kelso got a fast break layup, momentum and energy, all of which were needed.
But Mountain View inbounded quickly and got up the floor even faster, catching Kelso sleeping and hitting a 3 before the crowd knew what happened.
The potential run died before it could take its first step, signaling the direction of the wind.
“That was a great play by Gage to get on the floor, and get us in transition" Kinch said. "They flipped it on us quickly and we didn't guard in transition. And that was kind of the story of the game. They did a great job of getting out in transition off our misses."
At one level, it’s totally understandable why the Hilanders were so frustrated.
The 86 points were a season high, smashing the 71 allowed to Evergreen way back on Jan. 14. Lee and Wulf essentially had their choice of shots, finding buckets all over the floor.
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The pair had 11 of Mountain View’s 21 first-quarter points as the Thunder jumped to a 21-12 lead, and they just kept scoring. Lee had 20 points at the break and Wulf had 13. Mountain View never scored fewer than 20 points in any period.
“Giving up 86 points is nothing that that Kelso basketball has ever been a part of" Josh Webb said. "We're a defense-first type mentality and we gave up 86 points. I've never given up 86 points in my life."
The other side to that frustration is the success the offense had.
Kelso’s 71 points tied a season high, which, ironically, also came against the Thunder in a 71-64 win on Jan. 21.
It started a little slowly — Kelso had six first-quarter turnovers and only shot 12-of-32 from the floor in the first half — but Kinch got a balanced scoring night. Ethan Mitchell had 16 points off the bench with 14 coming after halftime as Kelso tried to claw back from a deficit that ballooned to as many 25 points in the third quarter.
Webb had 15, but had to sit essentially the whole third quarter in foul trouble. Wyatt Brown had 12 points, and Chase Johnson had 8, giving a glimpse of what could be for the next two seasons.
But the offensive success was a fleeting positive after a disappointing defensive effort that left the Scotties soul searching. They’ll have to find something fast, because it was the third straight game Kelso lost by 18 or more points.
But they do have a week before they must travel to Tacoma to face the 15-5 Mt. Tahoma T-Birds on Feb. 13.
“If that isn't (a wake up call), then I don't know what is," Webb said.
Mountain View 86, Kelso 71
MOUNTAIN VIEW — Austin Lee 29, Mason Wulf 26, Colby Smith 14, Kai Christensen 7, Ethan Blanchard 6, Mahkahri Bolds 2, Jacob Martin 2, Alec Cann, Dom Stephens, Preston Collins, Isaiah Vargas.