PORT ANGELES — Capping a life-long dream with a banked-in game-winner at the buzzer, receiving some hearty back slaps and congratulations from the boys and a run into the stands to celebrate the win with a hug from Mom.
Not a bad way to spend a Friday night.
Dru Clark’s running prayer of a shot in the lane banked in cleanly with 3.5 seconds left, lifting Port Angeles to a 41-40 win over perennial state powerhouse Lynden and capping a game that featured dogged defensive efforts from both sides.
Port Angeles defeats 41-40 Lynden on this prayer by Dru Clark pic.twitter.com/JehWtrYqig
— Michael Carman (@MikeCarmanPDN) May 29, 2021
“Get it in [bounds] and everybody go downhill,” Clark said of the final moments. “And we got it in to John [Vaara], I was doubled, ran off John and I thought I would get the foul call [when he was jostled away from the ball momentarily]. I saw the ball, I went and grabbed it and I had to get my feet set and let it fly.
“The crowds are a lot smaller now, but it was loud in there [when the shot went down]. All my teammates having my back and everybody coming together [to celebrate]. It was amazing. I’ve always dreamed of doing something like that.”
The Roughriders’ Jeremiah Hall set up the winning play with what else, a defensive gem, forcing a Lions turnover on an out-of-bounds pass with 12.3 seconds remaining.
“There was just nothing easy tonight. Both teams were phenomenal in taking care of the basketball and making each other work,” Riders coach Kasey Ulin said. “That was a state semifinal at the SunDome, executing in the half court-type of contest.
I was just excited for our guys. We’ve been on the other side of that many times [falling in close contests].”
Port Angeles both weathered and created scoring droughts. The Riders went 4:19 of the first and second quarters without a bucket and took 3:52 to score their first points of the third, but were able to hold Lynden off the scoreboard for a combined 5:30 of the third quarter.
And they withstood foul trouble that sent the 6-foot-9 Vaara to the bench with three fouls with 7:45 to go in the second quarter.
Wyatt Dunning also had to play gingerly at times after picking up two quick fouls in the first three minutes of the game.
The Riders also were without Chase Cobb, a player Ulin has said is his squad’s top defender, due to an ankle injury.
“Chase is a senior captain, doesn’t get to play in that game and he was the happiest guy there [after Clark’s shot],” Ulin said. “To see the kid who can’t play in a game like that be so happy for his teammates was great.”
Port Angeles also survived the shooting and athleticism of Lynden’s top player, Jordan Metcalf. Metcalf scored 11 of his 22 points in the fourth quarter, including knocking down three triples.
“Just a grinder. Lynden will not beat themselves,” Ulin said. “They came back every time it would seem like we would have a chance to get a two-possession lead and they would hit a 3.”
He also quieted the crowd with a first-quarter steal and a somewhat unexpected but expertly executed two-handed slam dunk over Xander Maestas.
Maestas would go on to spark Port Angeles with Back-to-back 3-point baskets in the third quarter.
“Xander made some big plays in the second half,” Ulin said.
And Clark brought it home in the fourth quarter, driving inside against Lynden’s tall timber and hitting a pair of free throws with 1:52 to play, knocking down a crucial 3 with 1:13 left and putting up the game-winning runner. He led the Riders with 13 points.
“He does so many things that don’t show up in the box score and he makes winning plays,” Ulin said. “Dru is 10-feet tall and bulletproof when he’s at his best and our kids feed off that.”
Ulin was happy to see his players hard work pay off with such a memorable win.
“To see the things we have been working on like the ability to be disciplined and focused in critical moments is really exciting, it makes you really proud and says a lot about the character of your guys,” Ulin said.
Port Angeles 41, Lynden 40
Lynden 14 7 6 13 — 40
PA 10 10 6 15 — 41
Port Angeles (41) — Clark 13, Maestas 8, Dunning 7, Vaara 7, Wheeler 5, Watkins 1, Hall, Gunderson.