By Nathan Joyce
The Rainier Beach Vikings were the overwhelming favorite heading to the Class 3A state boys basketball tournament.
Heck, they were the state’s top-ranked team all season.
They showed the faith in them was valid with a 53-45 win over Lakes of Lakewood in the state title game.
The game wasn’t decided until an 8-2 run in the final 1:12.
"We knew this was going to be a tough game," Rainier Beach coach Mike Bethea told the Seattle Times.
Lakes is led by a pair of Washington football recruits. Kavario Middleton, one of the top tight end prospects in the nation at 6-foot-6, 260 pounds, had 14 points and 12 rebounds. Jermaine Kearse, a wide receiver, had 14 points on 6 for-6 shooting.
"I feel like I'm still dreaming," tournament MVP Michael Ladd told the Times. Ladd scored 17 points. "I feel like I'm still in bed. It's unbelievable."
Rainier Beach finished the season 29-1 with the only loss coming against Class 4A Franklin. It was just the second loss for Lakes (26-2), which lost to Class 4A Kentwood.
The win was another in Beach’s dominating run. The south Seattle school has made it to state 11 straight times and have won a trophy (top-eight finish) each year. It’s the fourth state title in that run and the fourth for Bethea.
It also continues the Metro League’s run at the Class 3A tourney. A Metro team has won seven straight and eight of the last nine.
Girls Basketball: Auburn-Riverside Repeats
The Auburn-Riverside Ravens held on and won their second consecutive Class 3A girls title by beating Kennedy of Burien, 48-40.
The Ravens jumped out to a 31-15 lead and held on despite not scoring from the field in the final six minutes and turning the ball over 14 times in the second half.
Riverside finished 25-3 with all three losses coming from nationally-ranked, out-of-state opponents. Kennedy finished 24-3 with all three losses coming against the Ravens.
Tournament MVP honors went to Washington State recruit Katie Grad, who scored a season-low nine points in the title game.
“This is how I wanted to go out," Grad told the Seattle Times. "Nothing feels better than a repeat. ... We had this goal set since March 11 of last year."
Girls Basketball: River Ridge Repeats
The River Ridge Hawks of Lacey won their second straight Class 2A state title, beating Ellensburg 43-42 in the title game.
Three seniors were the key for the Hawks (24-3) in the fourth quarter. Sophia Russell, Courtney Blume and Keisha McDonald scored all 15 of the team’s points.
Russell scored on two-straight possessions that rallied the Hawks to a 43-42 lead with 21.2 seconds remaining. Blume came up the with the key steal in the final seconds to clinch the win.
Kayla Standish, a 6-foot-3 center headed to Gonzaga, scored 11 of her 15 in the second half.
The Hawks have won 11 straight at state.
“We wanted to get back and cut down the nets,” Blume told the Tacoma News Tribune. “And more than anything, this is our 100th win (for the seniors). We’re 100-9 the last four years.”
Boys Basketball: Ephrata Survives, Wins Title
The Ephrata Tigers didn’t make the playoffs last year after going 12-11.
After surviving a few last-second shots, the Tigers (25-2) are state state champs this year, beating the Burlington-Edison Tigers 58-56 in the Class 2A title game.
Burlington (24-3) had its chances, seeing a 3-pointer rattle out of the hoop and the putback do the same thing in the final seconds.
Patrick Simon, a 6-7 sophomore Washington State recruit, scored 19 points and his senior brother Daniel scored 17.
Burlington rallied from an 11-point halftime deficit to make the title game.