Seton Catholic’s time is finally here. After trying to beat down the wall that is the difficult Trico League, the Cougars boys basketball team found its breakthrough Tuesday night in a raucous King’s Way Christian gymnasium.
Seton Catholic turned a 12-point lead entering the final period into a 69-48 win over the rival Knights to advance to the Southwest 1A District Championship. They will meet La Center at 7:30 p.m. in Kelso on Saturday. With the victory, the Cougars also sealed a second straight trip to the 1A State regionals.
“It’s a dream come true,” Seton senior Luke Pitzer said. “This is what we’ve dreamed of since we came into Seton. This is what it’s all about: proving everyone wrong. We just took the opportunity and seized it.”
In the past, the Cougars might have seen that late lead dwindle. Perhaps, eventually disappear altogether. The year started with a late defeat to Hudson’s Bay. On Tuesday, Seton Catholic showed its growth.
“Some of the greatest growth comes from being humbled and we’ve definitely had enough humble pie this year,” coach Kris Small said. “These guys they’ve stayed together. We’ve just kept fighting, kept working.”
Pitzer, who defined the Cougars’ night with hustle and heart, scored a team-high 18 points. When King’s Way had trimmed a once 10-point Cougar lead down to three points, it was Pitzer who ran the length of the court to chase down a loose ball before turning and firing a 3-pointer. It kickstarted an 18-4 run late in the third quarter that gave the Cougars a 49-32 lead with 1:38 remaining in the period.
“It’s just the energy factor goes way up,” Pitzer said of how those hustle plays leads to offense. “We just run off adrenaline. It’s just an amazing thing when everyone comes together.”
Too many times have the Knights come back from big deficits for coach Small to get comfortable. But the Cougars picked apart the King’s Way defense late, breaking the press, making the extra pass and even going to the tried and true: physical point guard Gabe Anderson backing down smaller foes. Anderson finished with 11 points.
Xavian Rushing, who finished with 14 points, punctuated the victory with a steal and slam to seal the victory. Andy Olson added 17 points for the Cougars (13-9).
“I knew we could do it all season long,” Anderson said. “But to do it now, it’s an awesome feeling.”
King’s Way Christian was led by 15 points from Kai Butterworth and 13 from Brady Metz.
King’s Way (17-5), the Trico League champions, now face a pair of loser-out games. First up is Montesano at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Castle Rock. Star guard Bryson Metz is on the cusp of returning, and has been cleared to practice after breaking his foot earlier this season.
SETON CATHOLIC 69, KING’S WAY CHRISTIAN 48
SETON CATHOLIC (13-9) — Kellen Ball 7, Jacob George 2, Luke Pitzer 18, Samson Shiel 0, Nolan Hannam 0, Gabe Anderson 11, Xavian Rushing 14, Andy Olson 17, Zach Cowger 0, Griffin Young 0. Totals 28 (6) 7-11 69.
KING’S WAY (17-5) — Kobi Cason 8, Gage Koenders 10, Ty Snider 0, Mason Packer 0, Bryce Dodge 0, Kai Butterworth 15, Justin Frahm 2, Brady Metz 13, Bailey Meek 0, Sam Kelly 0. Totals 15 (4) 14-20 48.
Seton Cath. 15 13 21 20—69
King’s Way 5 20 12 11—48