There were no strangers in the Montesano Gym on Saturday night as the familiar rivals from down by the Cowlitz River took the floor. Fifteen days after getting the better of Winlock at their place by only 7 points, the Indians from Toledo were seeking to beat Winlock for a third time in the same season and also to attain a goal that they have been seeking hard after the entire season: The winner of this game would be guaranteed a trip to Spokane and the State Tournament.
Winlock was seeking to play spoiler as they have already made it to Districts for the first time in over four years. However, they have clearly not been happy with just making it to Districts and getting sent home. Ask the 17-5 second seed from the Pacific 2B league; Ilwaco. Winlock is coming fresh off of coming into the Fisherman's home court and sending them into the looser bracket for the tournament, even though they were the 8th seed from the Central 2b league. They were excited coming off of a huge win and playing with house money as they prepared to face their rival. Coach Bamer had his Cardinals ready to play after telling them before the game that they had earned Saturday night's game. Go out, have fun and play hard, all the pressure is on the third seeded Indians, he told them.
Coach Fallon also had his guys ready, warning his team that they had better be ready because Winlock was coming off of a big win and would be fired up. Both teams came out strong in the first half and clearly were prepared for the challenge that their coaches had leveled at them.
Nicholas Patching came out scorching for the Cardinals in the first half. He led all scorers at half time with 16 points and seemed to hit big three after big three at will. Both teams came out with fierce defense as evidenced by each school having almost 10 turnovers going into half time. Despite the defense, the hot shooting of Patching helped Winlock to a 15-12 lead coming out of the first quarter, with Toledo having tied things up at 1:52 in the quarter with the score 10 all.
Patching hit a three to start the second quarter and brought the lead up to four. But after that there was a little too much Wallace on the court for Winlock to deal with. Toledo has a fairly even attack at guard with Joe Wallace, Reece Wallace, Fuentes, Robles, and Hansen all able to have big nights from the court. On Saturday the Indians were paced by Reece Wallace, who had 8 in the first half and 11 in the second. Joe Wallace scored 7 and 8 respectively to give the two guards 34 points combined. Toledo looked like they might have the Cardinals in real trouble heading into half time when Carmen Robles stepped to the line with two free throws coming and an 18-24 lead. However he ended up missing the second free throw, and with 59 seconds on the game clock and .01 on the shot clock, Nick Patching struck again with a three that would make the half-time score 21-24 in Toledo's favor.
Again, coming out in the third quarter Toledo sought to give itself some sort of cushion, but Winlock would not be denied. At the end of the quarter it looked again likeToledo was going to create some space when Fuentes hit a three with only 23 seconds left in the quarter. Winlock responded by dribbling down court and immediately turning it over! But they then forced an immediate Toledo turnover, and with the clock showing all zeros, Jayce Coleman hit a 23-foot bank shot over his defender on a broken inbounds play. Just the way coach drew it up!
The fourth quarter was action packed with neither side willing to give up or show quarter. Winlock took the lead on a layup by Dawson Hall after gathering in a huge offensive board. Just like that it was 43-41 with 4:22 left. That's when Reece Wallace put the Indians on his back and made sure they would punch their ticket to play Napavine on the 15th in Tumwater and also to assure a berth at State. With 4:15 to play, he hit a three to regain the lead. Then he came back down on the next play and scored a bucket on a drive in which he came up with what looked like a sprained ankle. He then hit two free throws with 2:19 in the game on a play in which he was given three free throws on a missed three-point attempt. Final score 46-52 Indians.
Winlock is still alive in the tournament, but their path to state just got a lot tougher as they find themselves in the losing side of the bracket where they will rematch against Rainier, whom they beat in two overtimes in the regular season. They must find a way to win there and in the next game in order to make it to State, but it's a goal that is not out of reach.