CHEHALIS — With 3:33 left in the fourth quarter, two defenders pinned La Center’s Avery Seter against his own baseline, so he threw the ball off one of their legs. It rolled out of bounds, but the officials ruled possession to King’s Way Christian, sending the crowd at W.F. West High School into an outraged roar.
King’s Way fans cheered, La Center fans groaned.
With La Center up by 13 in a game that meant little in terms of postseason bids, the gym registered at its loudest point of the night.
Anyone present for the team’s first two meetings may understand why.
The Wildcat boys basketball team built a lead early and pulled away 65-51 to win the 1A district boys basketball title game over King’s Way.
And La Center owned the rubber match for the second straight year in a season series that means nothing if not for pride (both teams already clinched a state berth). Yet matchup was high-intensity and tightly contested.
“They always bring the best out of us because we know they’re a great, hard-working team,” Seter said. “They just push us and we push them. It’s a great rivalry.”
Seter, the first to cut down his share of the net amid the postgame celebration, finished with a game-high 21 points, 10 of which he scored in the first quarter as the Wildcats amassed an 11-point lead — one they never relinquished.
“We were just sleepwalking in the first quarter,” King’s Way coach Daven Harmeling said. “We spotted them 12 points and couldn’t make those up the rest of the game.”
King’s Way was led by Khalfani Cason’s 19 points and nine points from Kobi Cason, Brady Metz and Bryson Metz. Colby Shaw scored 16 points and Hunter Ecklund pitched in 13 for La Center, who squeaked out its second-lowest scoring total of the season.
And not by accident.
The Wildcats ditched its full-court press in the first quarter, which they say slowed the tempo of the game, and allowed them to utilize their size advantage on the glass.
“It wasn’t a fast-paced, press, try to run up the score, increase number of possessions and I’m kind of happy we did change it up a little bit tonight,” La Center coach Jeremy Ecklund said.
Added junior Evan Norris: “I think it slowed the game down a little bit, so we were able to defend better and not have them score as much.”
The Wildcats posited a similar result. They still managed to convert 10 layups and grabbed seven offensive boards in the first half.
La Center’s lead grew in the third quarter. Colby Shaw hit a 3 with a minute left to push the advantage to 18 points, the biggest of the game, but the Knights weren’t done fighting.
Khalfani Cason hit a quick 3-pointer and a baseline floater to pull King’s Way within eight early in the fourth.
But La Center quickly brought its lead back to double digits, and didn’t relent.
In winning back-to-back district titles, La Center has done something hat hasn’t been accomplished since the program’s golden era, the mid-90s — a “big feat,” according to Jeremy Ecklund. Perhaps, he inferred, it signals the start of a new golden era for the Wildcats.
“Everywhere we go around the state,” Jeremy Ecklund said, “everyone wants to talk about the 90s La Center Wildcats and how great they were and I’m kind of like, ‘hey, can we start talking about this team?’ ”
LA CENTER 65, KING’S WAY 51
LA CENTER — Hunter Ball 0, Colby Shaw 16, Ben Kelley 0, Evan Norris 7, Avery Seter 21, Matt Bryant 8, Hunter Eklund 13, Riley Fender 0. Totals 24 (5) 12-18 65.
KING’S WAY — Khalfani Cason 19, Kobi Cason 9, Gage Koenders 3, Kefentse Cason 2, Mason Packer 0, Bryce Dodge 0, Seth Woody 0, Justin Frahm 0, Brady Metz 9, Bailey Meek 0, Bryson Metz. Totals 20 (6) 2-3 51.
La Center 21 11 15 18 — 65
King’s Way 11 8 15 17 — 51