By Michael Carman
Peninsula Daily News
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“We looked a whole lot better, especially defensively,” Neah Bay coach Gerrad Brooks said.
“The fast breaks we received from our defense kept us up and then we started to knock down our shots in the second half.”
Defensively, the Red Devils were in control from the start, forcing four Loggers turnovers before Wishkah Valley could get off a shot from the floor.
Neah Bay led 15-7 after one quarter and had a 19-12 lead with 6:51 left in the first half after a made 3-pointer by Wishkah's Robert Rodriguez.
The Red Devils reeled off an 11-0 run over the next 4:29 of the second quarter, keyed by two buckets apiece from junior guard Abraham Venske and freshman reserve Kenrick Doherty.
Neah Bay even survived foul trouble after defensive spark plug Zeke Greene picked up his second foul with 5:51 left before halftime.
“He [Zeke Greene] sets the tone for us on defense. He's gonna trap, he's gonna get steals. He's too valuable to have on the bench,” Brooks said.
All told, Neah Bay trapped and hounded the Loggers into 21 first half turnovers and a 30-16 halftime lead.
Wishkah Valley's lefty sharpshooter Brady Anderson was held scoreless in the first half thanks to the efforts of primary defender Josiah Greene and solid help defense from the rest of the Red Devils.
The halftime lead would have been larger if the Red Devils' many open looks at the basket in the first half had fallen.
Brooks was pleased with the defensive effort at intermission and told his team to “stay with it” on offense as the looks they were getting were good ones.
“I wasn't upset about the misses in the first half — you don't try to miss,” Brooks said.
“I told them to just stay with it and have no conscience and just keep shooting.”
Two buckets by Venske and two from sophomore guard Ryan Moss pushed Neah Bay to an 11-0 run to start the second half.
Venske led all scorers with 20 points, many coming on smooth drives to the rim as the point guard looked for his own shot more in this game than he had in many of the Red Devils' (17-2) victories this season.
“I told him to make sure to look for his shot; sometimes he takes a backseat and I told him to go for it,” Brooks said.
Said Venske, “I just wanted to get to the cup, look for cutters and play ball.
“It feels good to get back to state, but we want to get back to that championship game.”
Last year, the Red Devils were the Class 1B runners-up after falling to Sunnyside Christian in the championship game.
Moss had 13 on the game, all of his points coming in the second half.
Anderson broke Neah Bay's third-quarter run by finally scoring his first points of the game, two free throws, to make it 41-18 Neah Bay with 5:37 left in the third quarter.
He mustered only nine points on the afternoon, 14 below his season average of 23, and looked visibly flustered by his performance in the second half.
“He's a lefty, he likes to go that way every time so we forced him right, and we had great help defense on him,” Brooks said.
“And we had Josiah Greene playing defense on him, and he's long and athletic and you're not going to hit too many over him.”
Josiah Greene also pitched in 11 points on offense.
The Red Devils outscored Wishakah 25-13 in the third to lead 55-29 entering the final period.
Neah Bay reserves played much of the fourth, with Doherty cashing in on two straight 3-point baskets as the Neah Bay lead ballooned to as high as 28 points.
Doherty finished with 10 points.
The Red Devils will learn their first-round state opponent after the WIAA conducts the tournament draw at 11 a.m. today in Renton.
They'll open the 1B state tournament at the Spokane Arena on Thursday.
Neah Bay 71, Wishkah Valley 59
Neah Bay 15 15 25 16— 71
Wishkah Valley 7 9 13 21— 50