As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Mount Si’s boys basketball players soaked up the emotional atmosphere of racking up their biggest victory of the year at the Tacoma Dome.
Raised arms, screams, hugs and even some goofy dancing took place at center court on Saturday after the Wildcats defeated Central Valley, 58-47, to notch the school’s first boys hoops championship since 1977.
The Wildcats endured a long year of waiting, training and dreaming to get back to the championship game after losing last March. It was now their turn to celebrate and the tournament officials had a tough time clearing them off the court for the next game to begin. So, they continued their jubilation with fans and family and whoever else wanted to congratulate them near the grandstands.
Mount Si’s senior star Jabe Mullins, who tallied a game-high 26 points, took the time to sign autographs for some youngsters before heading into the locker room.
“It feels amazing — everything I’ve ever wanted,” Mullins said of winning the title. “I’m just a scorer, I try to make winning plays. Yesterday, I was getting assists and today the game just came to me, I was finishing and hitting shots.”
Other scorers for Mount Si (26-4) were senior Hayden Curtiss with 12, sophomore Bennett O’Connor with nine, senior Tyler Patterson with eight and sophomore Quin Patterson with three.
Central Valley (25-3) scored the first two points of the game, but Mount Si quickly took control and never trailed again. The Wildcats led 14-6 after the first quarter, which featured a nice alley-oop pass from Mullins to Curtiss for two. Curtiss wowed the crowd with two dunks and several blocks, which had the fans chanting, “You got swatted!” to the Central Valley shooters.
Mount Si led 29-22 at halftime and Central Valley shrunk Mount Si’s lead to five, 39-34, after three quarters. In the fourth, Mount Si was quickly back up by 10 at 44-34 thanks to field goals from Mullins and Tyler Patterson and an O’Connor free throw.
The Wildcats were in control the rest of the way and Mullins made sure of it with a trey and layin to keep the lead at 11 down the stretch.
Head coach Jason Griffith was in awe of watching his players standing on the court while holding the championship trophy and two of them wearing the nets around their necks.
“At the end of the day, we got here last year because of our defense and we got back because of our defense,” said Griffith, whose squad held Central Valley’s 6-foot-10 Gavin Gilstrap to eight points.
“I felt we started a little slow. I think we were a little tight, which is probably normal in this type of game, but once we started going, we realized that we’ve been doing this for a while. We got in a good routine and we started executing well,” the coach said.
Quin Patterson said he had trouble sleeping the night before the game because he was so excited to hit the court.
“It’s something we’ve talked about doing since last March — March 2 that loss against Gonzaga Prep. We came back, marked it on the calendar. Here we are, it feels awesome,” he said. “State championship, you shouldn’t need much else to get you going. We were ready to go, we were hyped for this.”
O’Connor popped out of bed early on game day and was excited and anxious to get to the Dome.
“It was just awesome, the energy was crazy. All the fans came out and we put it on for them,” he said.
Speaking of the rabid Wildcat student fans, spokesman Troy Baunsgard and his crew were fired up before the game, probably just as much as the players. Their motto is “We Turn Up” and he expected about 100-plus fans to fill seven or eight rows.
“Coach Griff, the whole squad, they inspire the whole entire valley. Every sports team feeds off their energy and we love it,” said Baunsgard, a senior, who praised Tyler Patterson and Mullins.
“Those guys, greatest basketball players to ever go to Mount Si. There’s only one way to finish, came up short last year, you know how we’re doing it this year: Going out on top, baby,” he added.
Stationed for the game near the student section, Mount Si athletic director Darren Brown said the Wildcat players are great students, leaders and hard-working athletes.
“I’ve got goosebumps many times watching these guys play because when they’re all catching fire, it’s really exciting,” Brown said.
When asked what the Wildcats would be doing to celebrate their victory, Griffith joked, “We’re going to Disneyland, baby!” He added that the guys would get back home, relax and then everyone would gather somewhere that night.
Griffith said he needed to be with them to cap off their huge accomplishment.
Mullins was the all-4A boys most valuable player and a first-teamer and Tyler Patterson made the first team as well. Curtiss was a second-teamer and Griffith was the 4A boys coach of the tournament.