2A Boys Basketball: Huge Comeback Keeps Centralia’s Season Alive
DISTRICTS: Tigers Rally From 19-Point First-Half Deficit in 57-52 Consolation Semifinal Win Over Tumwater
By Aaron VanTuyl
There’s no polite way to put it: The Tigers stunk for a half.
“Uh, our offense wasn’t going too smooth the first quarter,” Centralia guard Tyler Ashmore said.
Fellow guard Hodges Bailey was less reserved on the matter.
“That was the worst half we’ve ever played,” Bailey said.
It was, indeed, a bad half: Centralia trailed by 19 with just over a minute until halftime against a tough Tumwater team that had beaten them twice in the regular season.
That, however, only served to make the second half and the eventual outcome of Thursday’s District 4 2A consolation semifinal more dramatic.
Centralia rallied from a 19-point deficit and caught fire in the second half to eliminate Tumwater, 57-52, in Chehalis. The win means the Tigers have at least one game left and are one win away from advancing to the regional round of the state playoffs.
Bailey finished with 23 points and scored 11 in the fourth quarter, including 8 in the last 1:24. He hit two free throws to put the Tigers ahead for good at 50-49, and after a missed Thunderbird 3-pointer he buried a triple as the shot clock was winding down that gave Centralia a 4-point cushion with 33 seconds left.
“That guy is phenomenal,” Ashmore said of his teammate. “He hit that 3, and I went crazy.”
Bailey said he didn’t hesitate on the shot.
“The time on the clock doesn’t change the situation in the game,” he said. “You just try to make the right play, play hard, and whatever happens, happens. You can’t control if shots go in or not, but that’s what you practice for.”
It capped a huge comeback that looked anything but probable early on. Centralia went 6 of 23 from the floor in the first half and was outrebounded 16-8. Bailey banked in a 3 just before the first-half buzzer to leave the Tigers trailing 31-17 at the break.
The main factors, according to Centralia coach Kyle Donahue, were poor rebounding and a lack of offensive flow.
“Our biggest thing was they’re going to get looks, but they were missing their looks and they were getting too many second-chance points,” Donahue said. “And offensively we struggled, because we wanted to play them one-on-one. It wasn’t just one guy, it was several guys.”
At halftime, then, the coaching staff stressed a return to the basics. After a 3 from C.J. Geathers put Tumwater up 34-17 the Tigers went on a 15-2 run, mainly fueled by open layups.
“We executed our offense better than we executed the entire season,” Donahue said. “We hit our flex-cut five times for lay-ins, which, that’s the system we run, and I don’t think we’ve hit it more than two times this year.”
Layne Pertzborn scored 6 of his 11 points in the pivotal third quarter, including a putback that came on a return fastbreak after Bailey pinned a lay-up attempt from Brian Marty — with whom, coincidentally, he shared the Evergreen 2A Conference’s MVP award.
Pertzborn’s lay-in with 4:46 left in the fourth quarter gave the Tigers their first lead of the game at 46-45, and his lay-up with 1:45 left, on a dish from Jordan Thomas, set up the final go-ahead free throws from Bailey.
“The second half we all came together,” said Ashmore, who scored 13 points. “The game that coach (Ron) Brown left us with, that Donahue kept going — just flex cut, keep doing it over and over, and we got great shots.”
Bailey’s 23 points gave him 91 through three games of the district tournament, eclipsing the three-game record (76) set by River Ridge’s Brad Wallace in 2013 and tying the four-game record set by North Thurston’s Ben Broeker in 2012.
He can take sole ownership of those the four-game record — to go along with the single-game tournament scoring record he set with 42 points in a loss to Mark Morris on Tuesday — when Centralia plays its final district game on Saturday.
The Tigers (16-8) will take on Columbia River on Saturday at Centralia College, at a time yet to be finalized. Centralia beat the Chieftains 65-54 last Saturday in the first round of the playoffs, and the winner will move on to the regional playoffs.
Geathers led Tumwater with 15 points, while Marty finished with 14. Thomas Drayton scored 10 with nine rebounds, and Cade Otton added 12 points and seven boards. The Thunderbirds won the EvCo regular-season championship and finished the year 17-6.
TIGERS 57, THUNDERBIRDS 52
Tumwater 14 17 14 7 —52
Centralia 7 10 24 16 —57
Tumwater (52) — Marty 14, Geathers 15, Otton 12, Drayton 10, Weller 1
FG: 21 of 50 —.420 FT: 5 of 7 —.714 Reb. 25 (Drayton 9)
Centralia (57) — Pertzborn 11, Thomas 4, Bailey 23, Ashmore 13, Shute 2, Edwards 4
FG: 19 of 44 —.436 FT: 13 of 19 —.682 Reb. 18 (Shute 6)