YAKIMA — La Center brought a 10-game win streak into the 1A state semifinals, but the Wildcats’ title hunt fell short on Friday.
Hunter Ecklund hit a pull-up 3 to pull within two with 25 seconds left, but Zillah hit key free throws to hang on to beat La Center 64-59 in the Yakima Valley SunDome to end a 10-game Wildcat win streak that included a league and district title.
La Center won each of those 10 games by a double digits margin.
Ecklund’s late-game effort capped a game-high 19-point performance, one of three Wildcats to score in double-figures. Senior Avery Seter had 16 points on 6-of-10 shooting and Colby Shaw added 11 points.
“I’m upset about the outcome but couldn’t be more proud of my team and how we fought,” Shaw, a senior, said. “We looked down a lot and kept coming back but it just wasn’t enough. Zillah’s an awesome team.”
La Center’s final push came early in the fourth quarter when Evan Norris scored and took a charge in consecutive possessions, which set up an Ecklund 3 to bring the Wildcats within two at 49-47.
The Wildcats play No. 10 King’s in the third place game on Saturday at 1 p.m., where it will contend for the program’s best finish since 1998 when it finished third. The La Center boys won back-to-back state championships in 1995 and 1996.
Zillah led by as many as 10 points in the second half and appeared poised to pull away, but the Wildcats heated up in the third quarter.
Ecklund hit a 3-pointer and Seter scored on the following possession to pull the Wildcats within five points and force a Zillah timeout with three and half minutes left in the third.
Antonio Salinas scooped up a loose ball, finished a layup while being fouled then completed the three-point play to put the Leopards up seven late in a third quarter in which La Center made 8 of 12 field goals after shooting 38 percent in the first half.
Zillah held a size advantage and asserted it on the glass, where it pulled down 18 offensive rebounds and out-rebounded the Wildcats 41-29.
Despite the loss, Shaw was quick to reflect on the run it’s been for the Wildcats, who fell short of Yakima a year prior by losing in the regional round — with much of the same roster.
“It’s been an awesome feeling, won league and districts, made it all the way here,” Shaw said. “Battled a lot this year. A lot of people didn’t expect us to make it this far even, so it’s just a good feeling.”
ZILLAH 64, LA CENTER 59
ZILLAH — Cesar Diaz 10, Antonio Salinas 12, Brock Ellis 7, Sebastian Godina 12, Weston Ide 15, Cody Vance 0, Kaden Magana 0, Claysen Delp 8. Totals 25-65 (3-16) 11-16 64.
LA CENTER — Colby Shaw 11, Evan Norris 8, Avery Seter 16, Matt Bryant 3, Hunter Ecklund 19, Hunter Ball 2, Tobey Deemer 0. Totals 23-49 (5-21) 8-14 59.
Zillah 18 14 17 15 — 64
La Center 13 10 19 17 —59