YAKIMA — Selah’s young team showed no signs of fear as underdogs on the biggest stage in Saturday night’s Class 2A state championship.
But despite another exceptional performance from Elijah Pepper, Saturday night’s 2A state championship belonged to Foss and senior Roberto Gittens. The Boise State commit loomed largest in key moments all week, and he capped it off with a resounding finale to clinch the Falcons’ 83-73 in front of a packed, pro-Vikings crowd at the SunDome.
“We wanted this,” Gittens said. “We worked a long time for this. We started working at the beginning of the year and we weren’t going to let nobody take this from us.”
The 6-foot-5 forward stayed at Foss (24-5) when it moved down from 3A to 2A because of his commitment to teammates and coach Mike Cocke, who wasn’t at all surprised to see Gittens take over another game. He scored six critical points midway thru the fourth quarter and finished with a team-high 22 after Selah (22-4) cut a 14-point deficit all the way down to three.
Gittens gained respect for Pepper in AAU competition last summer, and the Vikings’ sophomore shined once again as he scored 30 points to reach that mark for the fourth straight game.
Two 3-pointers to start the game quickly changed Foss’s plan of guarding Pepper with 5-foot-9 sophomore Christian Barnes, and even with the extra attention Pepper still found ways to get open on the perimeter and score off of steals.
He contributed four points of a stunning 14-0 run put Selah ahead 27-17 before Gittens’ layup with five seconds left in the first quarter. Pepper struck again in the second half with 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions to cut the lead to 62-57.
Gittens hit a pair of threes to match Pepper early, but the Falcons did the most damage inside, especially after Cort Dietrich picked up what Garza thought was the senior’s third foul early in the second quarter. It turned out to be a violation for swinging his elbows after a rebound, but a smaller Selah lineup couldn’t find an answer inside for Foss’s size and athleticism as it scored 32 points in the quarter to take a 51-42 lead into halftime.
“That was one of our strengths this tournament was our posts have been really productive,” Garza said. “When we can’t have both of them in there with Foss being as athletic and long as they are (it hurt), and they did a good job of finding guys down in that block area on those dribble drives.”
Dietrich and fellow senior Riley Quincy will be missed not only for their size, but also their leadership for the CWAC champs. Even though they don’t draw the attention and accolades of their younger, more offensive-minded teammates, Cocke said he knew the Falcons would win if they could get Selah’s post players in foul trouble.
Zach Donato became the latest Viking to provide a much-needed spark with 23 points, nine more than he scored in the quarterfinals and semifinals combined. The junior took little solace in his individual outburst and said the loss will only fuel Selah to come back stronger next year.
“We love everyone,” Donato said. “We’re going to miss the seniors. It was a great, great year and we have nothing to be ashamed of as a team.”
Garza shared similar sentiments, and he thanked his players as well as the Selah community for its support through a remarkable season. A year after winning a league title before a disappointing loss one game away from the state tournament, the Vikings took a clear step forward their return to SunDome for the first time in 13 years.
Foss won just its second title in school history behind Gittens and fellow senior Donald Scott, who posted a double-double with 20 points and 11 rebounds. The Falcons’ emotions began to show as the final seconds ticked down, leaving Donato with a feeling he hopes never to experience again.