MATTAWA — Playing for pride, playing with your guys, getting ready for districts, it’s all the same thing when it comes right down to it.
Friday night’s regular season ending game at Wahluke High School was many things to many guys. To Wahluke senior Alex Valdez it was his final game as a Warrior. Warden senior Jack Hardman was still working his way back from an ankle injury. Running mate and fellow senior Zach Richins was one step ahead of the flu bug on his way to a game-high 29 points. Cougar point guard Dreyton Martinez doesn’t mind driving the lane, but he’d just as soon put up those nice, pretty 3-balls.
The SCAC East No. 3 Cougars finally shook loose for a 55-45 victory, winning four of their last six games going into the SCAC 1A District Tournament where they’ll face West No. 2 La Salle (15-5) on Thursday.
For the Warriors (8-12), their season ended on Senior Night in front of a near capacity crowd.
“To tell you the truth, I think this was the most fun I’ve had playing basketball I’ve ever had,” Valdez said. “It’s a good group of guys. We didn’t win as much as we wanted to, but we had fun playing together.”
Even though the Warriors scored just eight points in the third quarter, they pulled to within 49-43 on a Sebastian Soto 3-point shot from the corner with 2:19 remaining, but that’s as close as they would get.
Richins scored 10 baskets from the field, including three from 3-point range, to finish with a game-high 29 to lead the Cougars. Hardman had 11 points and seven rebounds and Martinez added 10. Tanu Buck was 6 of 8 from the line for 18 points to lead the Warriors. Isaiah Perez had 12 and Logan Marlow finished with nine.
“Coach wants me shoot those 3s from outside. A couple of them were pretty far out, but I’d rather put up a pretty 3 and hopefully it goes in. If not I got big Jack down there to get the rebound and put it back in,” Martinez said. “I need to get back in the gym and work and get my shot back, but I think we’re playing pretty decent going into the playoffs.
“The most important thing is to keep playing like a family and keep pulling out the wins.”
Warden (10-10) finished third in the East behind Royal (16-4, 11-1 SCAC East) and Connell (16-3, 10-1). The Knights roll in on a 12-game winning streak, but No. 1 seed Zillah (19-1, 12-0) blew through the West without a loss.
“We have a couple of days to get ready. Jack still needs a little rest to get back into playing shape and we’ve had a little bit of the flu with a couple of players,” Wes Richins said. “I think we’re in pretty good shape going in. We’ll be ready to get after La Salle next week.”
The top four teams will advance to the regional round of the state tournament.
Warden 15 14 13 16 - 56
Wahluke 10 14 8 13 - 45
Warden - Michael Egia 5, Jack Hardman 11, Zach Richins 29, Dreyton Martinez 10. Totals: 18 14-21 56
Wahluke - Alan Contreras 2, David Ramirez 2, Isaiah Perez 12, Tanu Buck 18, Logan Marlow 9, Sebastian Soto 4. Totals: 16 11-16 45