In their first try on Wednesday night, Sequim's Wolves tried to play a perfect game to earn a state tournament berth.
It didn't happen.
Two days later, with their backs against the proverbial wall, the Wolves found all they needed was a perfect game plan.
A combination of shrewd defensive strategy, resilient defense, patience down the stretch and free throw acumen culminated in a 39-36 win against Steilacoom Friday night in the West Central District consolation championships, earning Sequim at least two more games as they advance to the class 2A state tournament in Yakima this week.
"It was just a great team effort, great execution on our kids' part," Sequim coach Greg Glasser said. "It was ... amazing execution all night long."
Ary Webb led the Wolves with 13 points while Clancy Catelli and John Textor added 11 points each but it was Sequim's determination on the defensive end that held Steilacoom to just two second-quarter points. That gave the Wolves an 18-10 halftime lead and all the advantage they'd need.
"We talked about eight being the magic number," Glasser said, explaining that with that kind of lead Sequim could make Steilacoom work on defense without shooting the ball. Without a shot clock in boys' basketball, the Wolves were able to drain the clock away for much of the second half, then hit eight-of-nine from the free throw line in the fourth quarter when the Sentinels were forced to foul.
Getting that lead was the challenge, however, as Steilacoom features three explosive scorers. That's why Glasser had the defense focus on 6-foot 5-inch Kelvin Penn, 6-foot 4-inch Greg Herd and speedy 5-foot 10-inch Blayne Clanton. And while Penn wound up with 12 points and Herd and Penn with eight points each, the Sentinel stars weren't able to find a rhythm.
"We knew who their offensive threats were," Glasser said. "We tried to make their other guys hurt us."
On offense, Sequim coaches had Wolves post Taylor Thorson handle the ball frequently away from the basket, drawing Penn away from the middle so Thorson's teammates could slash in for points.
On defense, Sequim players doubled down on the Steilacoom forwards, forcing turnovers, bad passes and shots from the Sentinels' less obvious scoring threats.
The plan nearly took a big hit when Sequim point guard Corbin Webb was struck above an eye in the second quarter and didn't return. But Glasser said Reed Omdal, the senior backup point guard, proved his mettle by helping shut down Steilacoom's guards and helping harass Steilacoom posts, particularly Penn.
"It was great mindset, going in for that help (in the post)," Glasser said.
Meanwhile, Textor, Sequim's athletic forward, helped shut down Clanton and Wolf Jeremie Oliver maintained defensive pressure on Herd, forcing the Steilacoom southpaw to his right.
Sequim maintained an eight-point lead through three quarters before Steilacoom closed the gap.
In the fourth quarter, it came down to making free throws and ball handling, and Sequim did just enough to pull out the victory. Catelli, a 6-foot 3-inch junior, made aggressive attacks at the basket and sank a key three-pointer late to boost Sequim's lead.
A Sentinel shot at the buzzer closed the deficit to three, but the game already was decided.
Steilacoom (15-7), the Nisqually League No. 2 seed, looked like it might not need to play in the winner-to-state, loser-out game such as this. But after building a 17-point lead against North Mason on Wednesday, Steilacoom watched an automatic state berth fade in a 55-52 overtime loss.
The Sentinels were seeking their first state berth since 2005-2006.
Sequim advances to their second state tournament in three seasons; the Wolves won the district tournament in 2007 beating Fife and Foster, then went 0-2 at the state tourney in losses to Burlington-Edison and East Valley of Yakima.
After accumulating a sub-.500 record in the regular season at 7-13 and finishing third among the Olympic League's four 2A teams, Sequim got a big win at Klahowya to get a home playoff game. Then the Wolves edged Eatonville by a single point in a do-or-die game, fell to Fife Wednesday and finally edged Steilacoom Friday night.
"Our kids, in the last couple of weeks, have exceeded everybody's expectations," Glasser said. "They have proven a lot of people wrong. That's what I enjoy coaching so much. I enjoy proving people wrong and being the underdog."
The Sequim coach was impressed with the number of Wolves fans who made the trip to Friday night's game at Foss High School in Tacoma.
"The crowd there was just amazing," he said. "The fans have been amazing."
Sequim now advances to play Clarkston in the first round at the state tourney. The Bantams finished third in the Great Northern conference behind West Valley (Spokane) and Pullman.
The Bantams score about 56 points per game and give up 52 per contest. Clarkston lost three of their final four regular season games, then came back to beat West Valley for the Great Northern No. 1 seed.
Dustin McConnell, a 5-foot 11-inch junior guard, leads the Bantams in scoring with 14 points per game followed by 6-foot senior post Cody Brown (10 points per game).
The Sequim-Clarkston winner faces the winner of the March 11 Tumwater-Burlington Edison game. The losers of the two games Wednesday meet in consolation play at 2 p.m. on March 12.
The last time Sequim won a game at state was 2001, when the Wolves went 2-2 and finished eighth.
"We can't just be content with going," Glasser said. "I'm not done proving people wrong and neither are our guys."
Fife puts Wolves
in do-or-die game
Momentum from a recent, one-point home playoff win against Eatonville simply wasn't enough to knock off the Nisqually Division champions.
Fife downed Sequim 52-43 in the West Central District semifinals in Tacoma on March 4.
Against Fife (15-6), Sequim got 15 points from Ary Webb, eight from Oliver and seven points apiece from Catelli and Corbin Webb, but a rash of turnovers in the second quarter and Fife's size advantage in the third began to take its toll on the inexperienced Wolves.
"We played a tough team," Glasser reminded his players in the locker room, moments after the final whistle. "They came out with a ton of pressure. We responded pretty well in the second half. I don't think we have to hang our heads here."
A spot in the district finals was what Sequim's players were yearning for and, after the first quarter, it looked as if they might have a shot. After falling behind 8-0 early, the Wolves got a pair of three-pointers from Ary and Corbin Webb, and then Ary Webb converted four consecutive free throws near the end of the first frame to tie the game at 14-14.
Oliver's field goal off a Thorson assist kept the Wolves within two points halfway through the second quarter (22-20), but steals by Dustin Yarrington and Thomas Darneille spurred a 12-2 Fife run that helped the Trojans go into halftime with a 34-22 lead.
Sequim had 12 first-half turnovers and 20 overall.
The Wolves looked like they might be in an even deeper hole just 90 seconds into the third quarter when Ary Webb, the team's leading scorer with nearly 17 points per game, picked up his fourth foul. But the Wolves actually closed the gap in his absence, outscoring Fife 9-5 to creep within 10 points (43-33) going into the fourth quarter.
Fife, however, slowed the game enough to bleed the clock and force Sequim into tough shots. Darneille, listed as a 6-foot 3-inch guard, pestered Ary Webb into tough shots. Sequim got their last score of the night with a Corbin Webb three-pointer, closing the gap to 51-43.
Darneille led a balanced Fife attack with 11 points while Damien Fisher, Cameron Hayes and Neiko Thigpen had 10 points each.
Ary Webb led the Wolves with six rebounds while Thorson added five. Oliver paced the team with three assists and two steals.
"They got a couple of steals and put-backs," Sequim guard Omdal said. "I think we did a good job of keeping composure. For a lot of us, it was the first time of being in the playoffs. We just need to get our feet underneath us (and) know what level to play at."
Reach Michael Dashiell at firstname.lastname@example.org.