The final two minutes of a Class 4A state quarterfinal matchup between the Mount Si Wildcats and Puyallup Vikings belonged to the gritty basketball squad from the Snoqualmie/North Bend region.
Mount Si outscored Puyallup 4-0 in the final two minutes of play, preserving a 45-40 victory on Feb. 28 at the Tacoma Dome. Puyallup missed four free throws in the final two minutes of regulation and failed to record a basket on multiple offensive possessions in the final 120 seconds. With 16 seconds left in regulation, Jabe Mullins scored on a difficult lay-up attempt, extending Mount Si’s lead to 43-40. With 2.6 seconds left in the game, freshman point guard Bennett O’Connor knocked down two consecutive free throws to seal the win. Mount Si hit seven three-pointers in the win as well.
Mullins, who finished with 13 points in the victory, believed the proficient shooting from beyond the arc paid dividends.
“It has been huge for us all season and was really great for us today. Especially when they (Puyallup) were pounding us inside. They would get two points and then we would go down and hit a three (pointer),” Mullins said.
The Wildcats’ stingy defense held Puyallup’s top players Kendell Munson and Jaeden Ingram to a combined 28 points. Ingram scored a game-high 15 points in the contest.
“The whole season we have been preaching defense. To be able to do what we did today against a great team like that was just awesome for us,” Mullins said.
Wildcats freshmen players O’Connor and Quin Patterson shined brightly under the pressure packed lights of the 4A state quarterfinals. O’Connor scored 13 points and was 4-for-7 from the field. Patterson hit two timely three-pointers at critical junctures of the game.
“I’m just so proud of what we were able to battle through today. Puyallup is a great team and to see what our two freshmen (O’Connor/Patterson) did was special. They were just phenomenal. You couldn’t ask for two 15-year-olds to step up better than that on this stage,” Mount Si head coach Jason Griffith said.
Mullins agreed wholeheartedly with Griffith’s sentiment.
“Bennett did great today. He was hitting clutch shots, he was rebounding and was just finding everyone. It was probably the best game he has ever played,” Mullins said of the freshman point guard.
Griffith, who is in the midst of his third season leading the Wildcats varsity boys basketball program, reveled in the success of his guys following the game.
“I promised the guys when I got the job that we would be here someday,” Griffith said of the state tournament at the Tacoma Dome. “This is year three and the kids have bought in from day one. They worked so hard in the offseason. It is not an accident that we are here.”
The Wildcats will face the Curtis Vikings in the Class 4A state semifinals at 3:45 p.m. on March 1 at the Tacoma Dome.