AUBURN — The Union boys basketball team was this close to clinching a berth to regionals.
Turned out, it wasn't close enough.
Instead, the Titans will have to take the tougher route if they are to make it to the state's sweet 16.
Bellarmine Prep of Tacoma got a steal with 12 seconds left, then Mar'kese Jackson converted a three-point play with 4.6 seconds remaining to stun the Titans 46-45 in the quarterfinals of the Class 4A bi-district tournament at Auburn High School.
"It was a lack of effort from all five players on the court," Union post Isaiah Robinson said of those final seconds. "It wasn't just that one play, though. We have to stay focused and battle for 32 minutes."
The Union defense did battle all night. Robinson had 10 blocked shots. The Titans swatted away 14 in all. But they needed a 15th.
Up 45-43 and taking the ball out of bounds with 13 seconds left, Titans couldn't get the ball past half court. Instead, it was poked away for a steal.
Jackson would get the ball in the key, and Union's Riley Hawken blocked the shot. Jackson grabbed the offensive rebound, put the ball back up for a lay-up and was fouled.
His free throw won the game for the Lions. Union's final shot hit off the rim.
The Titans fall into the consolation bracket and will play an elimination game against Emerald Ridge of Puyallup at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday at Mount Tahoma High in Tacoma. The winner of that game will land into the consolation's final four, and three of those teams will make it to regionals.
"We just have to rebound and realize it's not the end of the world. We still have a lot of basketball to play," said Hawken, who had a game-high 22 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.
"If we let this one loss get to us, it will be the end. We have to take pride in what we do and bounce back."
If Tuesday's game is close, the Titans believe they will know how to handle the pressure.
"We have to make sure when we play Emerald Ridge that we are prepared," Robinson said. "Don't let the same thing happen."
Both teams struggled most of the night on offense. Union never trailed in the first half, but no team had control.
There were eight lead changes in the third quarter. Robinson blocked two shots in the final five seconds of the period to keep the Titans ahead by a point.
Union jumped out to a fast start in the fourth, a 9-2 spurt to take a 41-33 lead with 5:22 to play. The Titans, though, would not make another field goal the rest of the game.
Still, they were in position to win when Robinson made both ends of a 1-on-1 for a 44-43 lead with 1:03 to play. Thirty seconds later, Micah Paulson made a free throw for a two-point edge.
The Lions would miss a shot, and the ball would go out of bounds -- Union ball. Bellarmine Prep played for a steal first, then foul if necessary. The Lions got the steal, then stole the game.
Bellarmine Prep is guaranteed a spot at regionals.
Union coach Blake Conley told his players after the game to remain positive.
"We know we didn't play as well as we could have," Conley said. "We didn't execute down the stretch and finish the game."
Then he gave the Titans some advice: "Let it hurt tonight and use it as motivation."
BELLARMINE PREP 46, UNION 45
UNION -- Derrick Derryberry 0, Micah Paulson 11, Austin Brown 2, Isaiah Robinson 8, Riley Hawken 22, Skillful Davis 0, Cameron Cranston 2, Spencer Martin 0, Stephen Ammentorp 0. Totals 16-47 (1-10) 12-14 45.
BELLARMINE PREP -- Malachi Flynn 5, Mar'kese Jackson 18, Carson Hollyoak 3, Rox Bodoia 6, Will Wolf 14, Garret McKay 0, Drew Griffin 0, Alex Foege 0. Totals 19-64 (3-13) 5-9 46.
Union 10 9 13 13--45
Bellarmine Prep 6 10 15 15--46