YAKIMA — Kao Pancho’s prayer was answered on Wednesday.
With Hoquiam leading 56-54 and 12 seconds left on the clock, Newport in-bounded and found the junior guard on the right side. He let go of a 3-pointer with about 3 seconds left on the clock. The shot banked off, but Newport sophomore Danny Bradbury ran down the rebound and tossed the ball back to Pancho.
In one smooth motion, Pancho let off the final shot taken in the SunDome on Wednesday. The loud screams from the Newport sideline and the collective air being sucked out of the Hoquiam faithful shook the walls of the dome in Yakima. The ball fell through the net and Newport defeated Hoquiam, 57-56, in a 1A state boys basketball contest on Wednesday.
The heartbreaking loss ended the Grizzlies’ season with a record of 17-8. Also ended by Pancho’s Hail Mary heave were the careers of Hoquiam seniors Jack Adams III, Ryan Espedal, Anthony Nash, Zach Spradlin, Jerod Steen and Jace Varner.
“It hurts,” Hoquiam head coach Curtis Eccles said. “It stings. I told the guys, the way they fought back and took the lead like they did, I’m so proud of them. It hurts to lose a game like that.”
In a game with more ups and downs for the Grizzlies than any of the rides on the Central Washington State Fairgrounds surrounding the SunDome, Hoquiam dug a 10-0 hole to start the game. Then, it put together a 16-2 run in the third quarter to pull back and lead most of the fourth quarter as the teams traded baskets. The game had all the excitement of a roller coaster, but no Hoquiam fans were smiling at the end.
Despite the warm sounding name of SunDome, Hoquiam started the night quite cold. The Grizzlies went the first three minutes without a bucket as Newport built a 10-0 lead, fueled by two 3-pointers from Owen Leslie. However, Hoquiam heated up to end the quarter. Adams hit a runner and put back a miss to end the quarter on a 7-0 run and cut the lead to 17-11.
Hoquiam continued its struggles offensively in the second quarter, unable to find any rhythm. The Grizzlies went 7-for-10 from the free throw line in the second quarter to stay close and end the half down 31-22.
In the third quarter, Newport started hot on a 10-4 run, which featured a 3-pointer from Owen Leslie and an old fashion 3-point play from Bradbury. But, with four minutes left, Hoquiam came alive with a storm of offense and a fresh drive on defense. Hoquiam owned the final half of the quarter with a 16-2 run that included a team effort. Varner scored nine points, including an old fashion three of his own, while Adams and Steen each hit runners, Victor James took a charge and Espedal capped the run with a bank 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“We started playing more team basketball,” Eccles said. “We started passing the ball more in the flow of the offense and that was the key to our comeback.”
Just one minute into the fourth, Spradlin stole the ball, was fouled and sank both foul shots to put Hoquiam up for the first time in the game. Hoquiam never trailed the next seven minutes until the final tick as Pancho’s 3-pointer fell. A traveling call gave Hoquiam the ball back, tied 54-54 with 44 seconds left on the clock. The Grizzlies would miss three shots, getting the rebound each time, before Adams put back his own rebound to take a 56-54 lead with 16 seconds left and set up the final heroics.
Pancho’s 3-pointer capped a game-high 21 point performance.
Adams finished with 15 points and five rebounds, while Varner had a double-double of 13 points, 12 rebounds and six assists. Steen scored 11 points.
“For this senior group to win a league title three of the four years, win a district championship this year and a regional and make back-to-back trips to Yakima is a lot to be said,” Eccles said. “They fought hard and they battled. I’m so proud of them. It has been a pleasure to watch these guys.”
Hoquiam 11 11 20 14 — 56 Newport 17 14 12 14 — 57
Newport (57) — Zorica, Pancho 21, Owen 4, Leslie 14, Bradbury 14, Smith 2, Hastings, Moorhead 2. FG — 22-56. FT — 6-9.
Hoquiam (56) — Spradlin 7, Nash 2, Steen 11, Adams 15, Varner 13, Espedal 3, Folkers, James 5. FG — 20-45. FT — 14-20.