By Michael Carman
Peninsula Daily News
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Neah Bay sophomore Ryan Moss' jump shot was as wet as the steady rain falling outside the Port Angeles High School gym in Tuesday night's 72-64 Neah Bay Class 1B Tri-District victory over Lummi.
Moss, who celebrated his 16th birthday on Tuesday, scored a game-high 31 points on six 3-pointers as the Red Devils moved within one win of earning a 1B regional berth and becoming one of the final 16 teams 1B teams playing for a state championship.
It was a special night for Moss right from the start, as the large Neah Bay traveling contingent serenaded him with “Happy Birthday” as he stepped to the free-throw line just one minute into the game.
“He stepped up and that's been the hallmark of this whole team all year,” Red Devils coach Gerrad Brooks said. “It's kind of hard to gauge us because other teams don't know who to take away.
“Tonight was his time to step up, we know he's capable and he proved that he can do that [shoot the lights out].”
Four of Moss' trey's came in a 4:14 span of the third quarter, keying a 20-3 run that broke open a tie game and turned what had been a hotly contested game into a relatively smooth Neah Bay victory.
“Ryan just did what our team needed, and that's the mark of every last one of these kids: they all do what is necessary for us to win,” Brooks said.
Moss had 14 points at half, seven from the free-throw line, as Neah Bay led 34-30 at the break.
The Blackhawks had the momentum going into the locker room after a 10-3 run to close the second quarter.
Lummi was doing its damage inside the paint in the first half, exploiting Neah Bay's lack of height and three early fouls on the rangy Josiah Greene.
“First half, I felt we didn't play well at all, I'd rate it about a D and the boys agreed [at halftime],” Brooks said.
“We got a little out of sorts at the beginning and the three fouls for Josiah [Greene] hurt us, but we got back to the fundamentals in the second half.”
Lummi opened the second half with two consecutive 3-pointers to tie the game at 36-all with 6:48 to play in the third quarter.
But Moss answered on the next possession, knocking down a 3-pointer.
Ezekiel Greene then forced consecutive steals and scored on back-to-back plays to fuel the 20-3 scoring spree.
“Zeke Greene, his defense, it's not as glamorous, but he really does a great job at getting everybody else's motor running. He's like the engine of the team and we blew it open there [in the third quarter],” Brooks said.
Ezekiel Greene's third bucket of the third period gave the Red Devils a 56-39 lead with 1:16 to play in the quarter. He finished with 11 points.
Abraham Venske had 13 points for Neah Bay.
“Our defense was better, our movement was better on offense, and we got the kind of looks we can get when we run our offense,” Brooks said of the difference between the first and second halves.
“In the first half we were looking for only the first or second option, if that, and going off on something else, but we really buckled down in the second half and ran our plays.
“We weren't haphazard, but played in the system and ran it well.”
The teams traded buckets for most of the fourth and Neah Bay led 69-50 with 3:26 left to go when Brooks decided the game was in hand and subbed out his starting five to a loud ovation from the Red Devils faithful.
Three quick baskets by the Blackhawks quickly changed Brooks' mind, and back in went most of his starting lineup.
“I made a bad coach decision there at the end and let it get close, but I won't make that error twice,” Brooks said.
Lummi's Kavarez Lane scored the final five points of the game to account for the closer-than-it-actually-was final margin.
Kavarez Lane and Trazil Lane each scored 14 to lead the Blackhawks.
A berth at regionals is on the line when Neah Bay plays Cedar Park Christian-Mountlake Terrace as Tri-District action moves to Mount Vernon Christian High School at 4:30 p.m. today.
The winner will play in the Tri-District championship at 6 p.m. Saturday, while the loser faces a loser-out game at 3 p.m. Friday.
Neah Bay 64, Lummi 64
Lummi 11 19 14 20— 64
Neah Bay 15 19 24 14— 72
K. Lane 14, T. Lane 14, Wilson 11, Jones 6, Brockie 5, Toby 5, Cooper 3, Williams 3, Scarborough 2, Hoskins 1.
Neah Bay (72)
Moss 31, Venske 13, E. Greene 11, J. Green 9, Doherty 3, McCaulley 3, Martinez 2.