La Center’s boys basketball team is back in a familiar place: the district championship.
For the third consecutive season, the Wildcats secured their spot in the 1A district championship, this time via a 91-67 win over Trico League foe Stevenson on Tuesday at King’s Way Christian School.
“We’re pretty pumped, that’s for sure,” senior Hunter Ecklund said.
The Wildcats (16-6) lost key starter Evan Norris and his 14.6 points per game to a broken foot midway through the season, but stayed the course. They failed to win a league title for the first time in a strong senior class’ tenure and still, they sealed a fourth consecutive spot at the 1A state regionals. Ranked No. 12 in RPI currently, they’re also likely to host that loser-out regional game next week.
“Guys have really stepped up to fill that role,” coach Jeremy Ecklund said. “It’s big shoes to fill, but I think our guys have been doing a good job of it.”
On Tuesday, the Wildcats also witnessed a familiar sight: plenty of scoring.
It was the fifth time in the past 16 games against Stevenson that La Center eclipsed 90 points. Hunter Ecklund scored 25 points to go with four steals and four assists. Hunter Ball added 14 points and eight rebounds, Cedric Hubler had 11 points and nine rebounds, Isaiah Romero scored 10 points and had five steals and Riley Fender finished with 10 points.
“For a playoff game, we put up 91,” Hunter Ecklund said. “That’s huge for us.”
La Center jumped to a 29-17 first-quarter lead and then a 46-33 halftime lead as they forced 16 turnovers in the opening 16 minutes. Once the game settled in, La Center got extra possessions by controlling the glass. They won the rebounding battle 37-23, and had 17 offensive rebounds.
“We knew we needed to crash the boards because we haven’t really been doing that this season,” Hubler said. “You just have to judge where the shot is going and play aggressive.”
The Wildcats play the winner of Seton Catholic-King’s Way Christian on Saturday. That game was in progress at press time. Go online to 360preps.com for that game recap.
Stevenson (9-13), looking for its first state appearance since 2007, will play the winner of Forks and Hoquiam in a loser-out game Thursday.
On Tuesday, the Bulldogs got 23 points from Jonathan Blackledge, 19 points from Ethan Haight and 16 points from Jesse Miller.
LA CENTER 91, STEVENSON 67
LA CENTER (16-6) — Hunter Ball 14, Tobey Deemer 9, Parker Ball 4, Shawn Child 3, Jeremy Humphrey 2, Isaiah Romero 10, Riley Fender 10, Cedric Hubler 11, Hunter Ecklund 25, Jordan Nixon 5, Matthew Pettit 0, Colby Hylton 1. Totals 31-66 (10-27) 19-29 91.
STEVENSON (9-13) — Jackson Krog 4, Brady Hall 2, Jonathan Blackledge 23, Nick Nissen 0, Jesse Miller 16, Tanner VanLaar 0, Joseph Jenkins 3, Ethan Haight 19, Austin LaCombe 2, Bennett Wright 1, Corrin Wahto 0. Totals 22-48 (6-14) 17-24 67.
La Center 29 17 23 22—91
Stevenson 17 16 21 13—67