YAKIMA, Wash. -- With the shot clock winding down, his coaches calling out the seconds, defensive players scrambling to cut off passing lanes and his team nursing a four-point lead with less than 2 1/2 minutes remaining, Zillah forward Justin Dunsmore found himself with the ball.
Eight, seven ...
Uncovered, basically, because he was roughly 22 feet from the basket.
A little background: Dunsmore is a sophomore, starting for a storied basketball program — one that has reached the last two Class 1A championship games — largely because of injuries to two starters.
Six, five, four ...
So the 6-foot-4 sophomore, who came down with the flu on Thursday, did what he’d already done four times previously, when he’d had room to launch a relatively undefended 3-pointer: He drained it, slamming the door on what would be a 55-50 Zillah victory over Steilacoom in Friday’s first day of the two-day SunDome Shootout.
The game marked the first matchup between the cross-mountain rivals since the 1994 state title game — which, of course, was before Dunsmore and his teammates were born.
“I knew about that when Coach (Doug Burge) told us yesterday at practice,” said Dunsmore after his 26-point night. “I knew we had a state championship sometime back then, but I didn’t know who they beat. Knowing that made it a lot of fun.”
So, too, did being in the kind of shooting zone Dunsmore was in. His 10-for-16 shooting night included 5-for-9 on 3-pointers.
“It just feels like you can’t miss,” Dunsmore said. “You get into this rhythm and you just keep shooting. I was feeling it.”
So, too, was Brady Widner, whose 19 points included a key 3-pointer after the Sentinels (6-4) had pulled to within 47-45 with 5:05 remaining. The Leopards (6-1) also got a workmanlike nine-rebound effort from Aaron Elizondo, helping offset Steilacoom’s dual 16-point scorers in Terrence Holmes and Austin West.
“I’m very happy with our guys,” Burge said. “They’ve sort of had their backs against the wall with the injuries we’ve had, and so other guys have had to elevate their games. And they know that — so far they’ve accepted that challenge.”
For Dunsmore, it was a challenge even to play on Friday night after he came down with an energy-sapping case of the flu a day earlier. But with starters Robert Slack (broken hand) and Kurt Calhoun (sprained ankle) already sidelined, Burge needed Dunsmore on the court.
“Our coaches were telling him the Michael Jordan story,” Burge said. “The one where he was sick and scored 55 points or something like that.”
Dunsmore got nearly half the way to that total.
“If he’s got his feet set, he’s a very good shooter,” Burge said of the lanky sophomore. “No doubt about it.”
But does the coach want Dunsmore taking that 3-pointer with the shot clock running down in a close game?
“It’s a great shot if it goes in,” Burge said with a grin. “That’s what we always say.”
STEILACOOM — Habte 3, Williams 3, Terrence Holmes 16, Jenkins 5, Austin West 16, Thomas 5, Reed 0, Haynesworth 0, Abney 0, Byrne 2, George 0. Totals 20-49 7-10 50.
ZILLAH — Salinas 2, Elizondo 5, Brady Widner 19, Justin Dunsmore 26, McKay 0, Burge 0, Whitaker 0, Garcia 3, Ellis 0, Watlamet 0, LaPierre 0. Totals 20-53 7-14 55.
Steilacoom 11 12 18 9 — 50
Zillah 12 15 17 11 — 55
3-point goals: Steilacoom 3-14 (Jenkins 1-5, Thomas 1-2, Williams 1-3, West 0-2, Habte 0-2, Reed 0-1), Zillah 8-19 (Dunsmore 5-9, Widner 2-5, Garcia 1-2, McKay 0-2, Burge 0-1). Rebounds: Steilacoom 32 (Thomas 7, Jenkins 6, Holmes 5), Zillah 34 (Elizondo 9, Widner 5, Dunsmore 5). Fouls: Steilacoom 12, Zillah 10. Fouled out: none. Turnovers: Steilacoom 17, Zillah 11. Assists: Steilacoom 10 (Habte 3, Williams 3, Jenkins 3), Zillah 8 (McKay 3).