Big game, big crowd, big win for Wildcats | Boys basketball

So many story lines…which to choose?

First, the obvious. The Oak Harbor High School boys basketball team opened the 3A District 1 tournament with a 54-49 upset over visiting Shorewood Wednesday, Feb. 6.

Oak Harbor (12-9) moves on to the semifinals to meet pre-tournament favorite and sixth-ranked Mountlake Terrace (19-2) at 6 p.m. at Jackson High School Saturday, Feb. 9. The game will be followed by the other semifinal contest between Glacier Peak (17-4) and Stanwood (16-5) at 8 p.m.

Terrace opened tournament play by ripping Marysville Getchell 68-38. Glacier Peak stopped Ferndale 64-40 and Stanwood thumped Shorecrest 63-34.

If Oak Harbor defeats Mountlake Terrace, it will secure a berth in the regional tournament and play for the district title at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, at Jackson.

During the regular season the Wildcats fell 65-53 at Mountlake Terrace.

If Oak Harbor loses the semifinal, it will need to win two straight in the consolation bracket to grab the third and final slot to regional. The first game would be in Oak Harbor at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 13, against the winner of Shorecrest (10-11) and Ferndale (8-13). The next game would precede the championship game at 6 p.m. Feb. 16 at Jackson.

The script of Oak Harbor's surprising win over Shorewood (14-7) had many plot lines.

•Déjà vu. The Wildcats also opened last year's district tournament with a win over the favored Thunderbirds.

•Revenge. The win avenged a heartbreaking 69-68 overtime loss to Shorewood earlier this season. In that game Oak Harbor overcame a 16-point second-half deficit only to lose on a buzzer beater.

•Josh Hawkinson. Some will want to put an asterisk next to Oak Harbor's win. The Thunderbirds played without the league's leading scorer, Hawkinson, who was ill. Hawkinson, a 6-9 Washington State University recruit, averages 19.6 points per game and canned 35, including the game winner, in the win over Oak Harbor earlier this year.

•Dayne Herron. Oak Harbor partially returned the Hawkinson-less Thunderbirds a favor when its own big man, Herron, missed much of the game while in foul trouble. Herron played only 12 minutes and only two in the second half. Herron, who averages 10 points per game, had only two points after scoring 18 against Shorewood in this year's first meeting.

•Dyllan Harris. The freshman, playing in place of the foul-plagued Herron, scored all nine of his points in the fourth quarter, including hitting the Wildcats' only field goals of the frame and draining five of six pressure-packed free throws. It was his second consecutive big finish. Harris hit all seven of his foul shots in the final two minutes of Oak Harbor's critical win over Marysville Getchell in the regular-season finale that wrapped up the home playoff game.

•Free throws. Harris wasn't the only one hitting crucial free throws. Oak Harbor has been a middling free-throw shooting team all year, but like Harris, the Wildcats were money at the end of the past two games. Going into the fourth quarter against the T-birds, the Wildcats were 9-for-17 from the line, then hit nine of 10 to close out the win. JoJo Webster and Drew Washington were each 2-for-2, Washington's coming with 14 seconds left to ice the win.

In the first meeting with Shorewood, the Wildcats missed two foul shots, including the front end of a one-and-one, in the final 16 seconds that most likely would have secured the win.

Oak Harbor finished Wednesday's win 18-for-27. Shorewood, which was 9-for-11 going into the fourth quarter, missed all three of its foul shots in the final period.

•Balance. Webster led Oak Harbor in scoring with 12 points, Chris Hailer had 11, Gabe Groenig 11, Harris nine and Washington nine.

•Hailer. With Herron missing large chunks of the game, Hailer picked up the slack with a monster game on the boards, hauling in 14 rebounds to finish with a double-double.

•Rebounding. Gabe Groenig, the team's blue-collar worker, and Washington complemented Hailer on the boards with eight each. Overall, Oak Harbor out rebounded the Thunderbirds 43-31.

•Home game. No one could remember the last time, if ever, Oak Harbor hosted a district tournament game.

•The crowd. The game pulled in the largest crowd in years, and the Oak Harbor students and band did their part, filling their half of the gym. The Wildcat rooters lifted their playing classmates with a continuous roar and spirited chants. And every erg of energy they could supply was needed because it was…

•Close. Oak Harbor zipped to a 6-0 lead and that would turn out to be the game's biggest margin. Shorewood would come back to tie seven times but never take the lead until it went up 44-43 with 5:30 left in the game.

Harris hit two free throws to put the Wildcats back into the lead. Taylor Freeman, who scored a game-high 17 points, countered for the T-birds and Shorewood took its final lead, 46-45, with 4:49 remaining.

Two buckets by Harris and two free throws by Webster made it 51-46 with 35.5 seconds left.

A three-ball by Zane Hopen brought Shorewood within two, 51-49, with 24 seconds left.

Harris made one of two free throws, then Webster recorded a block for a defensive stop. Washington followed with his free throws to wrap up the win.

Coach Mike Washington said, "It's survive and advance; we found a way to win. I can't believe it."

He added, "I want to thank the crowd. They were awesome, and we needed their help."


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