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Martinez: Fantastic basketball finishes lead area teams to domes

High school sports

By Tim Martinez, Columbian Assistant Sports Editor
Published: February 26, 2024, 6:05pm
2 Photos
Columbia River’s Ari Richardson (3) scores an uncontested layup as the White River bench looks on during a Class 2A State Opening Round boys basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, at Battle Ground High School.
Columbia River’s Ari Richardson (3) scores an uncontested layup as the White River bench looks on during a Class 2A State Opening Round boys basketball game on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2024, at Battle Ground High School. (Will Denner/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Ari Richardson capped a wild weekend of high school basketball with a moment most players dream about.

With 13 seconds left, the Columbia River junior had the ball as the Rapids worked for the final shot in their Class 2A state opening-round boys basketball game against White River of Buckley.

But Richardson wasn’t supposed to end up with the ball.

“It was supposed to be an elevator (screen) for Aaron (Hoey),” Columbia River coach Mark Ganter said. “If it got blown up, Nico (Valdez) was supposed to slip to cover that. And it ended up that the right person had the ball in the end.”

When White River defended the play well, Richardson drove toward the baseline, then popped back out and hit a 3-pointer with two seconds left, sending the Rapids to a 55-52 win at Battle Ground High School.

After making the basket, Richardson ran to the other end of the court, where he was quickly swallowed up in celebration first by his teammates and then by the Columbia River student section.

“It just shows our school has got spirit,” Richardson said. “It felt amazing to be around with all those guys. It felt incredible. It was the best moment of my life.”

Now, River gets another chance for another thrilling state win. Columbia River will face Anacortes at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday in the Class 2A Round-of-12 at the Yakima Valley SunDome. It’s the River boys first trip to the Hardwood Classic since 2019.

“It means everything, finally getting to go as a group,” Richardson said. “I know the seniors haven’t gone. So it felt good to help them to finally get to go to the Dome.”

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Last weekend, six local basketball teams earned victories in opening round games of state. And each celebrated in their own way.

On Friday in Yakima, the Camas boys basketball team poured in 19 3-pointers en route to 84-67 win over West Valley of Yakima to earn a trip to the Tacoma Dome.

Afterward, the Papermaker rushed to fill as many water bottles as they could with water, so they could douse head coach Ryan Josephson when he entered the locker room.

“Hey, they got to the Dome for a second year in a row,” Josephson said. “The least I can do is get squirted with water bottles.”

Camas will face Glacier Peak of Snohomish at 7:15 p.m. Wednesday in the 4A round-of-12 at the Tacoma Dome.

Camas will be joined in Tacoma on Wednesday by 4A Greater St. Helens League rival Skyview.

Demaree Collins had to overcome a rough shooting game — the senior went 0 for 10 from 3-point range — to make the pivotal play to help Skyview hold on for a 41-38 win over Woodinville at Battle Ground.

Collins came up with a steal with 5.6 seconds left, then sank two free throws to seal the win.

“He was not going to be refused,” Skyview coach Matt Gruhler said. “He carries so much of the offensive load sometimes … But when the chips are down, you want your best guys doing what they are confident doing.”

Skyview will play Federal Way at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday in a round-of-12 game in Tacoma.

“A lot of emotion,” Collins said. “We’re going to the Dome. … We had to show everybody what we’ve really got.”

The last time the Ridgefield girls basketball team won a state playoff their head coach, Lauren Hefflin, was a senior in high school — at Ridgefield — and many of the current Spudders were not yet even born.

That state-playoff win came in 2007. On Friday night at Battle Ground, the Spudders added another with a 59-46 win over Kingston in the 2A opening round.

“I’m excited to see all the smiles and the laughter that’ll go on for our trip to Yakima,” senior forward Morgan Goode said.

Ridgefield will face 2A GSHL rival Columbia River for the third time this season when the teams meet in a 2A round-of-12 game at 2 p.m. Wednesday in Yakima.

The Columbia Adventist boys basketball team had to run the gauntlet of two-loser out games to reach the 1B round-of-12.

The 16th-seeded Kodiaks beat Mount Vernon Christian 43-30 on Tuesday and then knocked off No. 9 Tulalip Heritage 70-63 on Saturday in Arlington.

Columbia Adventist will face Naselle at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Spokane Arena.

The round-of-12 of state is an elimination round. One local team got a pass from the round-of-12 and advance directly to the state quarterfinals on Thursday.

The top-seeded Camas girls basketball team fought their way through a sluggish first half against a physical Gonzaga Prep team to pull away for a 53-31 win Saturday at Battle Ground.

The Papermakers now await the winner of Bellarmine Prep and Tahoma in a state quarterfinal at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the Tacoma Dome.

Senior Addison Harris said Saturday’s win could help serve as a road map against possible future adversity for the Papermakers.

“We weren’t hitting them in the first half, and if we do that against some of the tougher teams like Woodinville, Kamiakin, it’s going to hurt us in later games,” Harris said. “Sumner was almost able to get us that way (in the 4A bi-district playoffs) because our shots didn’t fall. As long as we have our defensive philosophies that we can fall back on, then I think we’ll be successful at the dome.”

Not all local teams are headed to final state sites with victories. The Columbia River girls, Mark Morris boys and Seton Catholic boys will all need to rebound from losses last weekend.

Sixth-seeded Mark Morris saw its 14-game winning streak come to an end with a 58-48 loss to No. 3 North Kitsap in the 2A opening round in Tacoma. The Monarchs will face No. 11 Bremerton at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday in a round-of-12 game in Yakima.

No. 8 Columbia River got an up-close look at just how good top-seeded Ellensburg is during a 69-25 loss to the Bulldogs in a 2A girls game. River will look to regroup against Ridgefield on Wednesday in Yakima.

The Seton Catholic boys had a similar experience against No. 2 Lynden Christian in Lynden. The Lyncs refused to miss open shots, hitting 11 3-pointers, in a 71-39 win over the seventh-seeded Cougars. Seton Catholic will face No. 10 Meridian of Bellingham at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in Yakima.


Tim Martinez is the assistant sports editor/prep coordinator for The Columbian. He can be reached at tim.martinez@columbian.com, 360-735-4538 or follow @360TMart on Instagram and X (formerly Twitter).