COWICHE, Wash. — Senior leadership.
High school coaches preach it in every sport. They remind their underclassmen to learn from the seniors, telling them with each ensuing season that their time is getting nearer. And, of course, when they become seniors, they know what that means.
It’s their time, and they’d better come through.
On Thursday night, in a first-round SCAC boys district tourney first-rounder La Salle seemed destined to lose, the Lightning’s only two senior starters did what they were supposed to do.
Bret Oldham hit back-to-back 3-pointers to close the third quarter and another to give La Salle the lead for good, ans Gus Bonny scored seven points in the final 3 1/2 minutes of the Lightning’s 46-38 nailbiter over River View.
“What’s special about this team is we’ve got seniors,” said Lightning coach Tim Garza, whose 17-4 team advances to a 6 p.m. Saturday semifinal against Burbank (18-3) at Grandview. “We’ve got Gus Bonny, Bret Oldham, and Oldham really stepped up. He missed some shots earlier than he normally hits, but he stayed in there and that’s a senior for you.”
La Salle was down 28-23 in the final minute of the third period when Bonny whipped a pass to Oldham beyond the 3-point line, and the senior guard swished a trey. He hit another one with seven seconds left in the quarter, giving the Lightning a 29-28 lead entering the final period.
“Coach put it on my shoulders,” said Oldham, who finished with 22 points. “He trusts me, and I just took the big shots when we needed it and I hit them.”
The Panthers (13-8), though, were also getting big shots from guards Terran Brown (14 points) and Chance Williamson (11 points), and a Williamson 3-pointer knotted the game heading into the final five minutes. But Oldham answered with a trey of his own, after which Bonny darted through River View’s tightly packed zone for back-to-back baskets on baseline drives.
“Oh man, he’s quicker than lightning,” Oldham said — aptly, and with no pun intended — of his fellow senior.
But the victory wasn’t clinched until the final minute, when — with the Panthers pressing the inbounds pass after cutting their deficit to 42-38 — Oldham threw a football-style pass over the defense to a breaking Bonny for a layup that sealed the deal.
“We have a play that’s set up like that,” Oldham said. “Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t — most times they put a guy back. But if we see it, I’ll call it out and ... and we’ll throw it deep.”
And, with that basket and the victory, the Lightning put themselves in position to go deeper into the postseason. A win on Saturday would clinch a spot in the regional round for the first time since La Salle moved up into the Class 1A ranks.
“It’s been a long time going, just to get to game 21,” Garza said. “Now we’ve got game 21 out of the way, now we can just play the Lightning way — with a lot of effort, a lot of energy and a lot of defensive pressure.”
RIVER VIEW — Terran Brown 14, Chance Williamson 11, Hand 2, Cooper 6, Rogers 5, Simpson 0, Herrera 0, Salinas 0, Grow 0, Jaramillo 0. Totals 13-44 7-15 38.
LA SALLE — Andringa 3, Garza 4, Gasseling 4, Gus Bonny 11, Bret Oldham 22, Martin 0, Morehouse 0, Gorrebeeck 2, Perry 0, Ide 0. Totals 15-49 13-25 46.
River View 8 7 13 10 — 38
La Salle 5 10 14 17 — 46
3-point goals: River View 5-20 (Williamson 3-6, Brown 1-3, Cooper 1-6), La Salle 3-13 (Oldham 3-9). Rebounds: River View 29 (Hand 7, Cooper 5), La Salle 44 (Bonny 9, Garza 7, Oldham 6). Fouls: River View 21, La Salle 18. Fouled out: Hand (RV), Rogers (RV), Gasseling (LS). Turnovers: River View 17, La Salle 14. Assists: River View 5 (Cooper 2), La Salle 10 (Bonny 5).