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2B Boys Basketball: Toledo Goes Cold Late in Loss to Life Christian

Images from a State 2B Regional boys basketball game between Toledo and Life Christian at Tumwater High School on Saturday, Feb. 23, 2019.

Regional Round: Defeat Sets Toledo on Difficult State Trophy Path

By Jordan Nailon

jnailon@chronline.com

TUMWATER — Things didn’t break Toledo’s way here on Saturday in the regional round of the state basketball playoffs but the boys in red and black haven’t had their last word quite yet.

While Toledo fell 56-47 to Life Christian Academy their number two ranking in the RPI means that their season will pick up again next week when they lace up their sneakers in Spokane at the state tournament.

That’s what winning a league and district title can do for a team’s postseason prospects. Toledo coach Grady Fallon emphasized as much to his team after they faded down the stretch against an athletic and bombastic Life Christian squad.

“I just said you got outplayed today. I thought physically they outplayed us and outrebounded us. That was one of our goals before the game was to not get outrebounded,” Fallon said of his postgame locker room talk. “But hey, listen, I mean you’ve only lost two games all season. (Life Christian) lost three and lots of trophy teams have more losses than this. So whatever, be salty about it right now which is fine, but tomorrow we’re still alive and a lot of teams are going home today. That’s the silver lining I guess.”

What wound up a double digit deficit down the stretch was a much closer game for the first 28 minutes of play. A firecracker start by the Eagles put Toledo in a 6-0 hole to start the game but the Cheesetown hoopers were able to grate back in short order. Westin Wallace dropped in the first two buckets of the game for Toledo before Andreas Malunat nailed a three point shot seemingly from behind a cheerleaders pom pom with less than a minute remaining to make the score 8-7 at the end of the first quarter.

Brian Wood opened the second quarter with another on point three ball that gave Toledo its first lead of the game. However, an 8-2 run over the next two minutes gave the Eagles another comfortable cushion to work with.

That’s when Malunat came calling again with a twin set of long balls that found their mark within the final minute of the first half. Those threes cut Toledo’s deficit to just three points at 24-21 when the team’s retreated to their locker rooms.

In the second half, following five straight points from Wallace that included an old fashioned three point play, Toledo was able to snag their second fickle lead of the game. With four minutes left in the third quarter Bryce Marcil was able to convert an outlet pass off of a steal into points to make the score 30-29.

From there the score seesawed back and forth for the next eight minutes right into crunch time of the fourth quarter. After Toledo grabbed their third and final lead of the game straight out of the gate in the final frame the game wound up tied at 41-41 with just over 5 minutes remaining.

That’s when the proverbial fly fell in Toledo’s ointment.

Over the next four minutes the Eagles held Toledo scoreless as they pushed their lead out to nine points. That swing was punctuated by a corner three that Omari Maulana drilled with a Toledo defender’s hand threatening to tickle his eyebrows.

Life Christian coach Charles Simmons said it was his team’s commitment to stingy defense that gave them the edge on Toledo down the home stretch.

“When we walked into our locker room today we didn’t have a white board but we said you know what? We don’t need a white board because it’s been the same game plan all year. Defensively a team effort. Not an individual effort. We’re a young group so a lot of times this year we’ve had individual efforts but tonight we had a team effort and we knew we had to because they are a really good team,” noted Simmons.

The Eagles coach cited a late letdown against Willapa Valley in the district tournament semifinals as inspiration for their buzzer to buzzer effort on Saturday.

“Our whole focus at halftime was continue to play until the game is over and there’s no more time on the clock,” Simmons said.

By the time Bryce Marcil knocked down a pair of free throws with 1:08 left to play Toledo still trailed by seven points. A harried effort to catch up by pressing and fouling to send the Eagles to the foul line fell flat when Life Christian insisted on knocking down their free throws at a consistent clip. For the game the Eagles shot over 76 percent from the charity stripe.

Derek Wallace Jr. led Life Christian with 14 points while Noah Robinson added 10 points. As a team the Eagles bested Toledo 40-34 on rebounds. They also had fewer turnovers and more steals.

Fallon said some untimely turnovers sank his team’s chances for a comeback but they weren’t the main reason for their demise.

“I think we only had 12 or 13 for the game so that’s a decent output but they had less, and they had more rebounds. As the games go on the possessions are more important. You don’t have time to have four turnovers in a row,” Fallon noted.

The rest of Toledo’s woes came down to an unfortunate cold streak from beyond the arc where Toledo knocked down just four of 24 attempts. Meanwhile, the Eagles connected on 35 percent of their more conservative long range attempts.

“We didn’t shoot well in the second half from outside. You know, Andreas hit a few in the first half to keep us in it and got us a little more movement but we just couldn’t get it going. I think their pressure really affected our shot selection,” Fallon said. “I thought we settled for threes in the first half. We shot like 16 in the first half and we want to be around 20 for the game….We can make those shots. It just didn’t happen today.”

Malunat finished the game with 11 points, but only two of those came in the second half. Brian Wood added nine points but Westin Wallace notched 14 points in order to lead Toledo in both rebounds and points.

Fallon said it may have been Wallace’s most impressive effort of the season.

“He was definitely keeping us in it. He had a big game inside and that was one of our halftime adjustments was I didn’t think it was going inside out when we’re getting our shots,” Fallon explained.

Although he had a good showing personally, after the game Wallace was in no mood to celebrate his stats or his team’s backdoor entrance into the state tournament.

“They’re probably one of the the most aggressive if not the most aggressive teams that we played. I don’t know if we added any fuel to the fire with any headlines or anything like that but they definitely came at us. I don’t know that we were scared but I don’t think we were used to that and we’ve got to make sure we’re used to that next time,” Wallace noted.

He said it will be imperative for he and his close knit veteran squad to learn from their mistakes beginning Monday at practice if they still hope to ruffle some feathers in Spokane.

“I sure hope so because if it doesn’t it’s a waste. But if you can learn from it obviously it’s not a mistake, it’s a learning experience,” Wallace said.

Toledo will face Asotin on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. in Spokane. That game is a loser-out contest to gain entry into the double elimination portion of the tournament bracket. If Toledo wins on Wednesday they would face number one ranked Kittitas on Thursday morning.

Note: Napavine fell to Oroville 45-43 in Wenatchee on Saturday to end the Tigers’ season.

At Tumwater

EAGLES 56, INDIANS 47

Life Christian 8 16 13 18 —56

Toledo 7 14 15 11 —47

Toledo (47) — Wood 9, Marcil 4, Arceo-Hansen 5, Wallace 14, Farbo 2, Malunat 11, Peak 2

FG: 17 of 53 —.321 FT: 9 of 13 —.692 Reb: 34 (Wallace)

Life Christian Academy (56) — Nichols 6, Swilley 6, Maulana 9, Shaughnessy 5, Novotny 2, Robinson 10, Wallace 14, Woods 4

FG: 19 of 58 —.328 FT: 13 of 17 —.765 Reb: 40

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