FORKS — Forks held court from the get-go, sharing the basketball and holding down the Stevenson Bulldogs 77-67 in the first round of the Class 1A Southwest District IV Boys Basketball Tournament on Thursday.
With the win, the Spartans (17-4) advanced to face King’s Way Christian (14-7) in the district semifinals scheduled Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Hoquiam High School. A win sends Forks to the state regional round.
“We started great, that was the start that we wanted,” Spartans coach Rick Gooding said of Forks’ 10-3 start and 24-12 lead after the first quarter. “First district game, we started great and it felt like it was a cruise after that.
“We did what we wanted to do. We knew [Stevenson] Lincoln Krog wanted to put his head down and get to the rack, so we wanted to step in and take a bunch of charges. And as many as they called I thought we took a couple more. He’s a fast, dynamic player and we did a good job on him.”
Forks’ frisky start was fueled by guards Seth Johnson and Joseph Reaume.
“We were moving the ball really fast, trying to attack and get that early lead and build momentum,” Johnson said.
Johnson had eight first-quarter points on his way to a game-high 33, while Reaume attacked the rim aggressively to score six of his 10 points in the first frame.
“Absolutely, right out of the gate,” Gooding said when asked if Reaume’s play boosted the Spartans. “You get to this point in the season and we haven’t played each other, we’ve only seen each other on film. So they see us and know Cort [Prose] can shoot 3s and Seth is going to get to the rim, and so you need someone like that to provide that spark.
He’s done that all year, he plays with a little chip on his shoulder because people overlook him with our other guys. And If he steps up and plays well, we usually do pretty good.”
Forks’ ball movement was superb all game long — including some flashy behind-the-back passes for layups and well-executed give-and-go plays and backdoor cuts along the baseline.
“This is a pretty unselfish team as far as that goes, which is nice,” Gooding said. “You have to have your scorers score, but we moved the ball well. That’s one of our strengths, we don’t have one thing we are necessarily going to try and beat you at, it’s a dribble drive and find the shooter type thing. Right out of the gate they were trying to stop Cort from deep, but that led to Joey getting some space and some good looks inside.
“That ball movement opened things up so much.”
Johnson had a sensational shooting night from the floor, getting inside and finishing with a flurry of different moves to rack up the points.
“I loved our crowd getting into it and the intensity we all brought,” Johnson said.
Forks also weathered some foul trouble with post Braton Armas.
“We knew he was going to be taking a lot of charges in the middle of that 2-3 zone,” Gooding said. “He’s a big-time difference maker when he’s on the court for us.”
That was clear in the fourth quarter as Armas scored eight of his 14 points to hold the Bulldogs at bay.
Stevenson closed to within five points, trailing 59-54 after a Bennett Wright 3-pointer to open the final frame.
But Armas followed by scoring two difficult baskets inside, followed by a Johnson steal and runout layup as Forks put together a 9-0 run and went up 68-54 with less than five minutes to play.
The only obvious minus to the evening was a team-wide struggle at the free-throw line for the Spartans and some slow rotations defensively that opened up 3-point looks for the Bulldogs.
Forks received ample opportunities to salt the game away early at the line, including three technical foul calls on Stevenson, but couldn’t convert on most of them.
”We need to lock down defensively and get into a defensive flow and keep pressure on them. We gave up some 3-pointers that we should have rotated better,” Johnson said.
“And we definitely need to sink more of those [free throws].”
Forks will get that opportunity in the winner’s bracket Saturday.
Forks 77, Stevenson 67
Stevenson 12 22 17 16 — 67
Forks 24 20 15 18 — 77
Stevenson (67) — Krog 17, Hoidal 15, Hobbs 10, Blackledge 8, Miller 8, Wright 4, Hall 3, Lowery 2.
Forks (77) — Johnson 33, Armas 14, Prose 10, Reaume 8, Baysinger 5, Flores 3, Baar 2, Morton 2,
Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or at [email protected]