YAKIMA — La Center boys basketball coach Jeremy Ecklund didn’t hesitate when describing Jake Wise’s performance Friday.
It was herculean, the second-year Wildcats coach said.
“You could see it from the start,” Ecklund said, “that he was not going to be stopped. The kid was absolutely phenomenal.”
Wise scored his team’s first 12 points. Of his game-high and tournament-best 22 rebounds, 10 were on the offensive glass. And he was money at the free-throw line, particularly in overtime, to help seal the Wildcats’ 49-42 overtime win over Warden.
Wise finished with a game-high 28 points that sends La Center (18-6) to Saturday’s 1A boys fourth-place game at 9:30 a.m. against Newport.
Fourteen of Wise’s points came at the free-throw line; he went 14 of 16, including a perfect 6 of 6 in overtime. All nine La Center overtime points came at the line: Wise, Avery Seter (2 of 2) and Jackson Leslie (1 of 2).
“Toward the end,” Wise said, “they were making our lives easy by fouling us.”
As a team, La Center went 21 of 25 at the line.
One of the biggest momentum-shifting plays in overtime also came from Wise, but it wasn’t a free throw or adding to his rebound total.
It was a charge.
He drew it on a Warden offensive possession with 58.3 seconds left in OT that if converted, would have cut La Center’s lead to 46-44. Instead, it remained a four-point lead and ball to the Wildcats.
Warden didn’t score the final 3:14 of overtime after scoring four points in the final 41 seconds of regulation to send the game into overtime.
Seeing Wise’s work ethic makes teammates try to work just as hard as the 1A Trico League MVP, said senior Matt Baher.
“You see his effort on the court, and you don’t want to let someone like him down,” said Baher, one of three Wildcats to finish with six points. “You try your hardest to mimic what he does — play with that same energy, that same passion.”
La Center is now a 4-0 this postseason when facing elimination. It won two straight games in district tournament play, and two more this week: Wednesday’s victory over La Salle, plus Friday against the Cougars.
Now, La Center will go home with its first trophy since the program won it all in 1997. Saturday’s loser will place sixth.
“That’s nice,” Wise said. “It’s pretty sweet.”
LA CENTER 49, WARDEN 42 (OT)
La Center — Jon Eastman 0, Jake Wise 28, Avery Seter 6, Matt Baher 6, Hunter Ecklund 6, Shadon Arnstutz 0, Joe Bork 2, Jackson Leslie 1, Mason Weaver 0. Totals 12 (4) 21-25 49
Warden — Zach Richins 5, Martin Arriaga 3, Tanner Skone 4, Adam Richins 7, JR Delgado 21, Fernando Barriga 0, Jack Hardman 2, Jesus Mercado 0. Totals 13 (5) 11-12 42
LC 14 11 6 9 9 – 49
War 7 11 9 13 2 – 42