LACEY — Free throws at opposite ends of the game were the difference as Woodland dropped a 63-54 decision to Mark Morris in the 2A district boys basketball championship game Friday night at St. Martin’s University.
The Beavers made just two of their 12 first half free throws, including their first eight, then watched the Monarchs seal the victory by making nine of 13 in the final two minutes of the game.
“It’s not an excuse, but it was the first time our guys had shot at baskets with fans behind them,” Woodland coach Andrew Johnson said. The Beavers troubles came shooting into the Mark Morris student section, while the Monarchs had shot theirs down the stretch into that friendly area. “We never quite recovered from that first quarter.”
Both teams had previously clinched berths in next week’s 2A state regionals.
Tyler Flanagan led the game with 17 points while Bryce Mulder added 16 for the Beavers (15-6), who had a third double-figure scorer in Tanner Sixberry, with 10. Will Burghardt led Mark Morris with 14, Tyler Berger scored 12 and Garrett Berger 11.
With Woodland missing its first three 3-point shot attempts as well as struggling from the foul line, Mark Morris jumped to an 11-2 lead after four minutes. The Monarchs (18-5) grabbed their biggest lead of the night, 30-14, on fast break layup by Zach Rismoen in the final minute of the half.
But Sixberry then made one of two free throws and Mulder threw down a dunk before the break. Mulder then fueled a third-quarter rally with nine points. Flanagan threw in an athletic running one hander to cut Mark Morris’ lead to 36-33 late in the third.
“We settled down after halftime,” Johnson said. “The fight was always there. We needed to settle down and execute.
With Bryce and Palmer Dinehart we’ve got guys who can score inside. We told them ‘they’re not going to call the ticky-tack fouls, you’ve got to score through contact.'”
Monarchs coach Bill Bakamus acknowledged Woodland’s effort, telling the crowd during the trophy ceremony that beating the Beavers in the rubber match of the teams’ three games this season — they split their Greater St. Helens League meetings – was like “getting an 800-pound gorilla off our backs.”
After Flanagan’s shot, though, the Monarchs retaliated with a three from out top by Burghardt and steadily rebuilt their lead.
A 6-0 run put Mark Morris up 48-40 with 5:10 to play when a false alarm brought out the Lacey Fire Department and forced a brief evacuation of Marcus Pavilion.
After play resumed, Woodland twice cut the deficit to six points, but got no closer as the Monarchs cashed in their free throws after intentional fouls by the Beavers.
Johnson is confident Woodland will be ready for its regional round game.
“We told the kids in the locker room it’s a brand new season,” he said. “We’ll take Saturday off and be ready to go on Monday once we find out who we’ll be playing.”
Mark Morris 63, Woodland 54
Mark Morris – Dawson Fitz 0, Tanner Vaillencourt 8, Masen Baker 7, Connor Stange 4, Garrett Berger 11, Tyler Berger 12, Will Burghardt 14, Zach Rismoen 4, Kyle Matthews 0,
Woodland – Bryce Mulder 16, Davin Rice 6, Wyatt Harsh 3, Palmer Dinehart 2, Tristan Thomas 0, Tyler Flanagan 17, Tanner Sixberry 10.
Mark Morris 16 14 11 22 – 63
Woodland 9 8 18 19 – 54