TACOMA — It was a scream of joy. Not a cheer. A scream.
Devin Johnson could not stay quiet.
“I’m just so jacked right now,” he yelled. “We have the whole team just killin’ it right now.”
The whole Battle Ground boys basketball team is on the way to the regional round of the Class 4A state playoffs.
Johnson scored 22 points, leading four Tigers in double figures Thursday night, as Battle Ground pulled away from Emerald Ridge of Puyallup for a 69-54 victory in a bi-district tournament game that qualified the Tigers for regionals.
“This is the farthest we’ve gone in what?” Jamie Ford asked, before answering himself.
“A long time.”
A dozen years in fact. Battle Ground last made the sweet 16 — known as the state tournament back then — in 2002.
The Tigers (17-8) are back, and will play in the regional round March 1 against Issaquah or Garfield for the opportunity to advance to the Tacoma Dome for the state tournament.
Ford finished with 16 points and six assists. Colby Cahoon made three 3-pointers in the first quarter and finished with 15 points. Josh Lemar added 12 points.
The Tigers put on a shooting display, and they were just as impressive on defense in the second half.
Battle Ground made 27 of 48 shots from the floor — 56 percent.
Defensively, the Tigers held the Jaguars to 4 of 26 from the floor in the second half, 2 for 16 in the fourth quarter.
A two-point game going into the fourth quarter, Emerald Ridge missed six shots and had a turnover on their first seven possessions.
The turning point of the quarter came on a Lemar assist to Johnson, who made a shot and was fouled. Johnson would miss the free throw, but Damien Ford outworked an Emerald Ridge player for the offensive rebound. He fed Jamie Ford, who drove to the hoop for two more points. The quick four for Battle Ground gave the Tigers a 58-48 advantage with 3:23 to play.
Johnson joked that he missed the free throw intentionally, just knowing his guys would get the ball.
He might have only been half-joking. Johnson liked how everybody was giving the extra effort needed in a playoff game.
“All of us felt we had this game. All five of us on the floor played hard all night long,” Johnson said.
Battle Ground coach Wes Armstrong, in his first year with the program, said this achievement was the culmination of a lot of work before he was there as well as the players buying into his philosophy.
“And we’re playing really good basketball right now,” Armstrong said.
The Tigers were 11 of 15 from the floor in the first quarter, jumping out to a 27-17 lead. Johnson, who finished 10 of 13 from the floor, had 11 of his points in the quarter. Calhoon also had 11 points in the first eight minutes, going 3 for 4 from 3-point range.
The Jaguars, behind the play of Marcus Harris, got their deficit down to four at the half, then two going into the fourth. Harris would finish with 30 points but was 8 of 23 from the floor.
Armstrong said the plan was to make Harris work for every point.
After losing in the first round of this bi-district tournament, the Tigers had to win back-to-back elimination games to reach Thursday’s game.
“I couldn’t even dream about this honestly,” Johnson acknowledged. “It’s never been a reality until now.”
Reason enough for the Tigers to get a loud.
BATTLE GROUND 69, EMERALD RIDGE 54
BATTLE GROUND — Jamie Ford 16, Damien Ford 0, Devin Johnson 22, Josh Lemar 12, Colby Cahoon 15, Nate Moring 4, Taylor Smith 0, Keaton Hoots 0, Jeff Moran 0, Ben Nikolas 0. Totals 27-48 (4-11) 11-17 69.
Emerald Ridge — Guillermo Alcaraz 7, Raeshon Scales 9, Marcus Harris 30, Trey Darst 2, Shawn Hoyt 2, Goa Mal 2, Connor Smith 2, Jacob McCoy 0, Ashanti Kindle 0. Totals 15-44 (4-13) 20-22 54.
Battle Ground 27 14 7 21–69
Emerald Ridge 17 20 9 8–54