LONGVIEW — The starters were on the bench for the last few minutes.
Sure, they were celebrating their win. They knew the significance of the victory.
But they also were watching the reserves do their thing.
At Woodland, after all, the Beavers are trying to build a boys basketball program for today and tomorrow, not just for the now.
Woodland (15-5) topped R.A. Long on Tuesday night 69-51 in the semifinals of the Class 2A District 4 tournament, earning a trip to the regional round of the state tournament. And they did it together.
“We dream about this moment, to get all the guys in the game,” said senior Bryce Mulder, who led the Beavers with 19 points.
“It’s an amazing feeling to get all the secondary guys in,” added Tanner Sixberry, who added 18 points. “They work so hard in practice. Nice that it pays off for them, too.”
The Beavers got so much time because the key guys did their job all night, turning a close game into a runaway for reach the district championship game.
Woodland will face Mark Morris at St. Martin’s University in Lacey on Friday for the title. Win or lose, the Beavers have at least made it to the state’s round of 16.
“Win and you’re in, and that’s what we did tonight,” Woodland coach Andrew Johnson said.
He also credited R.A. Long (12-9) for the competition, adding that the final score did not tell the whole story.
“Every possession, they made us work for it,” Johnson said. “They made us earn it tonight.”
The Beavers did that by owning the boards and a quality defense that held R.A. Long to 32 points through three quarters.
Mulder and Palmer Dinehart each grabbed 10 rebounds. Sixberry had six, plus two blocked shots.
“Two keys to every game: Defense and rebounding,” Johnson said. “Defense will wins you games. Rebounds really put teams away. When those three play like that … it’s great for us.”
R.A. Long had a 14-12 lead toward the end of the first quarter but Woodland would go on a 12-0 run to take the lead for good. Mulder, Dinehart, and Sixberry scored those 12 points.
“We knew they were going to zone us. We knew nothing was going to be easy,” Sixberry said. “We were going to have to grind it out.”
Tyler Flanagan would make two 3-pointers in the second quarter to push the lead to 12 by halftime.
Mulder credited the Woodland guards for attacking that zone, something the Beavers had struggled with earlier in the season.
“They stepped it up, and they also played really great defense,” Mulder said. “It was a group effort guarding them tonight.”
It was all Woodland in the third quarter, too, with the Beavers going up 20.
The lead grew to 22 before R.A. Long’s last push made it a 13-point game with five minutes to play. Coby Rothwell led R.A. Long with 13 points.
Devin Rice answered for Woodland, staring a 9-0 run to end any doubts.
Then it was time for the starters to head to the bench, to cheer on the next wave of Beavers.
“I remember going in to a district game as a freshman,” Mulder said. “It’s fun. It’s going to help them in the future.”
A year ago, the Beavers reached the state regional round, then won that elimination game to advance to the quarterfinals at the Yakima Valley SunDome. Woodland would love to repeat that performance. The Beavers have earned their shot.
“You work every day in practice, all offseason, and you dream about going to state,” Mulder said. “Be with your friends, your teammates. To go back two years in a row, it’s everything to us.”
WOODLAND 69, R.A. LONG 51
WOODLAND — Bryce Mulder 19, Josh Pascual 0, Wyatt Harsh 2, Palmer Dinehart 11, Tyler Flanagan 11, Tanner Sixberry 18, Tristan Thomas 0, Devin Rice 5, Alex Bishop 3, Tim Gerega 0, Isaiah Flanagan 0. Totals 25 (4) 15-25 69.
R.A. LONG — Marcus Maryott 0, Coby Rothwell 13, Ty Lewis-Clark 9, Conner Wallace 5, Keoni Mawae 2, Jacob Childers 7, Jacob Thompson 4, Tanner Rybnikar 2, Nolan Plank 5, Chandler Lyon 0, Cole Katera 2, Dana Cathart 2. Totals 13 (3) 22-27 51.
Woodland 18 16 18 17–69
R.A. Long 14 8 10 19–51