2A Boys State Basketball: R.A. Long reaches uncharted territory with win over Tumwater | Sports

Eufemia Didonato

Editor’s Note: R.A. Long was scheduled to play in the State semifinals against Lynden at 9 p.m. on Friday, in a game that started after this paper was sent to the printer. Coverage of that game will be available online at tdn.com/sports after it ends. If the Lumberjacks won, they’ll […]

Editor’s Note: R.A. Long was scheduled to play in the State semifinals against Lynden at 9 p.m. on Friday, in a game that started after this paper was sent to the printer. Coverage of that game will be available online at tdn.com/sports after it ends. If the Lumberjacks won, they’ll play in the State finals at 3 p.m. If they lost, they’ll play in the third-place game at 1 p.m.

YAKIMA — It was one small step for R.A. Long and one giant leap for Lumberjack nation.

When the boys in red and black held the line and rebuffed Tumwater’s attempts to knock their mission off course Thursday they had to utilize everything, and everyone, at their disposal in order to manufacture a 61-54 win in the state quarterfinals.

The win puts the Jacks in the semifinals and guarantees R.A. Long its first boys basketball trophy since 1952-53, back when the school was known simply as Longview High School, and those pesky neighbors across the lake didn’t even exist yet.

The quarterfinal win had familiar heroes, with Cavin Holden scoring a game-high 19 points and grabbing a team-high eight rebounds. Aaron Ofstun added 12 more points and grabbed a half dozen rebounds himself. But the difference down the home stretch came from guys like Stephen Rooklidge and Jaxon Cook, who picked their spots and never let the moment become too big.

People are also reading…

The Lumberjacks fell behind almost immediately against the T-Birds and struggled to find their footing on either end. Not only were their shots not falling but they struggled to get them up in the first place, with Holden himself being whistled for multiple traveling violations on run of the mill three-point attempts.

After one quarter the Lumberjacks found themselves trailing 18-14 and their fans wondered if they’d forgotten their rebounding and defense on the wetter side of the mountains.

“Once again they tested us in that first quarter,” R.A. Long coach Jeray Key said. “They killed us on the boards in the first half and going into the game we said we had to box out and give them one shot. They are tough, I mean they play for a State title in football almost every year, so we knew what we were getting into.”

Thankfully for their fingernails, the Jacks’ faithful didn’t have to wait much longer for those fears to be relieved when RAL held their opponents to just two second quarter points on their way to a 23-20 lead at the half.

While their defense did the dirty work the Jacks also began to dial in their stroke. Holden started the second quarter with a driving and-one bucket to cut the deficit to one point and then Jamond Harris drilled a three-pointer to give RAL their first lead of the night. A 15-foot jumper from Rooklidge with forty seconds left in the half gave the Jacks the 23-20 advantage that they would take to the locker room before refining their plan for the second half.

“I kind of got on our guys like, ‘Hey man, you gave up 18 points and you gave up two here.’ That’s how much better our defense can be,” Key said. “And that’s a good team. Teams at this level, in the final eight, to hold them to two points… I don’t know if anybody else will do that in the whole tournament.

“Our guys gutted it out. They didn’t want to go home. They’re playing for something.”

After the break the Lumberjacks began to look more and more like the juggernaut reputation that precedes them wherever they go. Holden hit a three on the first trip down the floor to help stretch the T-Birds’ defense and then the Jacks started feeding their bigs. First Cook sank a bucket and then Ofstun cashed a baby hook through a foul and completed the old fashioned three-point play from the free throw line.

When Tumwater began to crash defenders down to the block the Jacks responded in kind and kicked the ball back out to the perimeter. With 1:45 left in the third Rooklidge caught a pass in rhythm and calmly knocked down a long range connection to put RAL up 37-27 for their largest cushion up to that point.

Still, the Jacks’ role players knew they would need their big dogs to start tugging on the leash if they wanted to hold Tumwater off for good. When Luke Brewer and Tanner Brewer combined for seven points as time grew short in the third the Jacks’ lead shrank to just three points, but a point blank putback by Holden that barely beat the buzzer gave RAL a five point advantage heading into the fourth quarter.

“Aaron started getting in his groove a little bit. And Cavin of course, he does what he does,” Rooklidge said. “It’s only a matter of time before he hits the shots that he always hits.”

Still, Tumwater continued to hang around and another jumper from Luke Brewer cut the Jacks’ advantage to three. Then a steal and breakaway bucket from Brayden Oram brought the T-Birds back within one point.

That’s when Rooklidge came up clutch, again, catching a swing pass from the post and knocking down another three-ball.

“I knew I was wide open and I was going to shoot it,” Rooklidge said. “It was an amazing pass by Jaxon Cook. He caught the ball and had a lot of patience, made the right read and found me and I hit the shot.”

Rooklidge finished the game with 12 points and Cook added nine of his own.

Cook put up four of those points on the next two plays following his assist to Rooklide on a pair of free throws and a bucket on the block.

That sort of multifaceted production was precisely what the Jacks needed against a familiar opponent they’d faced just two weeks prior in the District title game. After watching the Jacks cut down the District nets, the T-Birds came in with a gameplan to keep guys like Ofstun and Holden from taking the game over single handedly.

“I told Jaxon to stay in that short corner and when that double comes just slip underneath there and we found him a couple times,” Key said. “And he was underneath the rim to get some big rebounds and putbacks, and he also closed the deal making some big free throws that we needed down the stretch.”

After Cook’s final free throw the Jacks led 56-47 and all that was left to do was play out the string. Even a thunderous dunk out of Tumwater’s Ryan Otton with 1:39 remaining wasn’t enough to swing the tide back to the boys in green.

Andrew Collins led Tumwater with 18 points and Luke Brewer added 17, but the T-Birds hit on just 2-of-12 shots from downtown while R.A. Long hit 5-of-13 long range attempts.

R.A. Long now knows that it will be leaving Yakima with some new hardware for the trophy case, and that knowledge was enough to make a dependably stoic Stephen Rooklidge smile through his teeth.

“We feel so amazing. We’ve worked so hard and we really deserve this. I just hope we can keep playing well and bring a title home to R.A. Long,” Rooklidge.

R.A. Long will face Lynden in the semifinals on Friday at 9 p.m. in the SunDome. Lynden dispatched Sehome 72-60 in Thursday’s quarterfinal nightcap. Key and company pledged to be ready to go when it’s their turn to step into the den to face the Lions. After all, they didn’t set their sights on the trophy round just to settle for anything less than a golden finish.

“We’ve got a long time to go before tomorrow night’s game so we’ll let them feel good and then go to sleep,” Key said. “I think our guys will be ready to go. We’re here on a mission and our goal is to get to that state title game, and win it.”

Source Article

Next Post

Good bones: New life for old buildings revives small-town downtowns

As shopping malls went up in sprawling, small-town suburbs, and downtown business districts grew quiet, the buildings sat empty for decades. The soaring ceilings and vast windows, the wide beams of timber, the heavy red brick walls gathered dust. Sharon Marr, the executive director of MainStreet Cleveland since 2005, watched […]