By Michael Carman
Peninsula Daily News
PORT ANGELES — Neah Bay senior Kenrick Doherty Jr. would not be denied his fourth consecutive trip to the Class 1B Boys Basketball State Championship in Spokane.
The senior rained down five 3-point baskets, all in the final five minutes of the fourth quarter to give the Red Devils the boost they needed to hold off Cedar Park Christian of Mountlake Terrace 73-68 Thursday at Port Angeles High School.
Doherty had missed all eight of his previous 3-point attempts and entered the fourth quarter with just two points.
“Fourth quarter it got close, and I was telling myself, ‘I’m not losing,’ ” Doherty said.
“The coaches kept telling me to keep shooting it because they could see I was getting down on myself, but I kept shooting it and finally found it.”
Each time the Lions (20-5) pulled close in the final period, Doherty was there.
He launched an NBA-range trey to give the Red Devils a 57-50 lead, hit another, and then cashed a third for a 66-58 advantage with 2:42 to play after Cedar Park’s star, Erwin Weary, somehow banked home a 3 while shooting off of one foot.
Doherty then hit two in a row to push Neah Bay to a 72-60 advantage with 1:40 to go. The Red Devils leaked a little oil the rest of the way, hitting just 1 of 8 free throws down the stretch, but hung on to win.
“Kenrick got hot at the right time,” Red Devils coach Ben Maxson said.
“Kenrick had 10 boards and played good defense late and he got hot from behind the line and carried us in the fourth and separated the game. Kenrick has the ability to play inside and outside, but it’s always nice when a kid who can get hot, starts to knock down two or three.”
With the Class 1B Tri-District Tournament victory, the Red Devils clinched a state regional berth and a trip to Spokane to defend their 2016 state championship.
“It’s more like home, it feels like I’m going home,” Doherty said of playing state games in Spokane Arena.
“We’ve made it all four years, so it’s nothing new, but it’s the same every year. We have to prove ourselves, prove we are a good enough team to win a state title and to do that we have to come prepared to play.”
Neah Bay (18-3), the top-ranked 1B team in the state’s RPI rankings system, will play the RPI No. 8 next weekend in a seed-protected regional that ensures both teams advance to play at state in Spokane.
Barring upsets, that game would set up a rematch of last year’s championship game against Almira/Coulee-Hartline (20-2).
Maxson, an assistant coach on last year’s title team, was pleased to see his team seize the opportunity to compete for another crown in Spokane, even if he wasn’t completely happy with how his team played.
“It’s really exciting,” Maxson said. “I’m thrilled with this group, to see them get better as the year has progressed. It’s a little disappointing not to have had the district games like the other teams, Cedar Park has played two or three games more than we have and I felt the boys were sloppy tonight and it took us awhile to get back to playing our game and working hard.
“I thought we were sloppy in our defensive rotations, I thought we didn’t play with the intensity and speed getting back on defense that we are accustomed to and I thought offensively we were complacent.”
Early on, it didn’t look like the Red Devils would have too much of a problem against No. 11 Cedar Park.
Neah Bay jumped out to an 11-2 lead, and was up 22-9 before Sam Yaranon knocked down a buzzer-beating 3 at the end of the period.
The Lions switched from man defense to a 2-3 zone and the Red Devils went away from looking for shots inside and didn’t attack the middle of the zone, preferring to swing the ball around the perimeter and put up 3s.
“First half we saw some success with penetrating and we got away from it,” Maxson said. “We got shot happy and we wanted to launch from deep and not go inside and that plays right into a 2-3 zone’s hands.”
Long shots led to long misses and Cedar Park Christian did a good job of getting rebounds and runouts for Weary and open jumpers for diminutive 5-foot-4 guard Jacob Catey to cut the Red Devils’ lead to 36-29 at halftime and 52-46 after three quarters.
“We were a little passive getting back on defense and it hurt us,” Maxson said.
“No. 24 [Weary] could create a shot at any time. We gave them confidence and at this point in the season you don’t want to give a team confidence.”
Weary finished with 32 points, 21 coming after halftime.
“We expected No. 24, we knew No. 24 was going to be there,” Doherty said. “We didn’t think the other kids would show up. They were hitting shots that we didn’t think they could hit, so that hurt us a lot.”
Catey finished with 11 points and Jacob Shley had eight for the Lions.
Cameron Moore led Neah Bay in scoring with 24 points, 16 of those coming in the first half.
Maxson liked how the ball moved against Cedar Park’s zone in the fourth quarter.
“We talked about the fact the weak side was open all night and we did not work through to the second, third, fourth option in our offense to get the ball to the weak side. The first time we did, Rweha [Munyagi] got an 8-foot baseline jumper wide open. We finally played all the way through our offense and he buried it.
The main takeaway, Maxson said, was clinching a state berth after a nearly two-week break between games.
“We made state, got to see a state-caliber team, a ranked team, and we play again in a week and we will be fine,” Maxson said. “But it took a solid three quarters for us to play Neah Bay basketball.”
Neah Bay 73, Cedar Park Christian (MLT) 68
CPC-MLT 12 17 17 22— 68
Neah Bay 22 14 16 21— 73
Cedar Park Chr. (68) — Weary 32, Catey 11, St. Lewis 8, Schley 8, Maxwell 6, Yaranon 3.
Neah Bay (73) — Moore 25, Doherty 17, A. Bitegeko 12, Munyagi 10, Svec 5, S. Bitegeko 2, Greene 2, Tyler, Johnson.