TACOMA — The result wasn’t what they hoped for, but what the Evergreen Plainsmen felt they did prove Wednesday is they belong at the Class 3A Hardwood Classic.
That’s what players take away most in one of the team’s most successful seasons in recent memory following a 61-52 Round-of-12 loss to Rainier Beach. The standard is set for future teams, seniors Zyell Griffin and Tyler Ricketts said.
“This is huge,” Ricketts said. “It proves that Evergreen is back on the map for basketball. If you listen and play your game, that we’ll be fine.”
The two are part of a senior-laden Evergreen team that’s steadily risen under third-year head coach Brett Henry to include the program’s first Tacoma Dome trip since 2006. It came after 3A Greater St. Helens League title and a bi-district title game appearance.
“I’m proud of all my guys, especially all my basketball players,” said Griffin, a UNLV football signee. “I’m not a basketball person myself, but happy they got to do this for their senior year.
Griffin had a game-high 19 points Wednesday and 11 came in the first half that, despite foul trouble, still helped Evergreen have a 31-30 edge at halftime.
It last won a state tournament game in 1999, and came close Wednesday against a perennial power program with state titles under current head coach Mike Bethea. Despite a scoring drought lasting 7-plus minutes of the third quarter and losing senior forward Mario Herring (ankle) late, the Plainsmen pulled within Evergreen pulled within one possession twice in the fourth quarter.
But who knows what would’ve happened, players said, had Evergreen struggled finding an offensive rhythm in the third quarter. There’s never a good time for a scoring drought, especially going almost the entire third quarter without a point. Meanwhile, Rainier Beach’s 11-0 run gave the Vikings their first double-digit lead at 41-31. Kiefer Lopez’s corner 3 fresh off the bench were Evergreen’s third-quarter points.
But the third quarter also is when it lost Herring, the team’s 6-foot-6 senior forward. He came down awkwardly on his ankle reaching for an offensive rebound. He did not return.
The team already lost Jaden Stanley (hand) in the bi-district semifinals, but despite its top two scorers out, Evergreen rallied to pull within 49-47 with 3 minutes, 1 seconds to play on free throws by Ricketts.
Henry, Evergreen’s coach, called this season a stepping stone.
“It takes a lot more work to be here every year and we have a ways to go.”
RAINIER BEACH 61, EVERGREEN 52
RAINIER BEACH — Hamza Mohaba 3, John Hart 10, Zig Holmes-Williams 9, Nahmir Robinson 8, Josh Conerly 4, Kejohn Atkins 16, Yahye Osman 3, Winston Cole 6, Gary Johnson 2, Frank Gratten 0, LJ Armstrong 0. Totals 24 (3) 16-20 61.
EVERGREEN — Camren Smith 1, Zyell Griffin 19, Tyler Ricketts 7, Mario herring 8, Carter Monda 7, Izaac Romero 4, Kiefer Lopez 6, Peyton Alberts 0. Totals 25 (5) 7-10 52.
Rain. Beach 16 14 13 18 – 61
Evergreen 13 18 3 18 – 52