JOYCE — It was theirs until it wasn’t and the finality of Neah Bay’s season-ending 54-53 Class 1B Tri-District Tournament play-in loss to the Lopez Lobos was quickly evident on the faces of the Red Devils as they shuffled off the court for the final time this season.
Neah Bay held a six-point lead late, but a furious fourth-quarter rally by Lopez turned the tables in a see-saw game that saw momentum and the lead flip back and forth.
Up 48-42 late, the Red Devils struggled to hit shots down the stretch while the short-handed Lobos, all six of whom played, ended the contest on a 12-5 run to oust Neah Bay.
A Julian Carrick 3-pointer pulled the Red Devils within 54-53 with 49 seconds to play, but Neah Bay couldn’t get a shot off on its final two possessions — one a turnover on an entry pass into the past and the other a traveling violation with 6 seconds left in the game.
The Red Devils took the loss hard, visibly frustrated as they headed to the locker room for one final postgame debriefing.
“We talked about the junior class taking some time in the next couple of weeks to talk with the seniors about what they are going through right now and realizing they have 365 days before you’re in this moment as a senior,” Bachelor said. “That they don’t want to leave any what-ifs or to dwell on this moment.
“For our junior class they’ve got a limited amount of time left and then have that trickle down to the sophomores and freshmen, that they all have a limited time as well before you are in this position- heartbroken over a playoff loss.”
Neah Bay erased a 12-point first-half deficit after cleaning up some turnover woes, improving its effort on the offensive and defensive glass and knocking down some shots.
Captain Claplanhoo scored nine of his 15 points in the second quarter as the Red Devils cut the Lopez lead to 31-25 at halftime.
Neah Bay’s Darrin Horejsi sank seven of his nine points in the third quarter as the Red Devils surged ahead to open the second half.
Toby Croy’s bucket inside put Neah Bay up 44-40 entering the fourth quarter.
“Toby’s hustle is ridiculous,” Bachelor said. He’s a guy who wants to win and cares about nothing else and he’ll do anything he can to do that.”
But Neah Bay went cold from the floor in the fourth, hitting just two shots and 2 of 4 free-throw attempts in the final frame as the Lobos packed the paint for team rebounds.
“Absolutely [proud of our efforts],” Bachelor said. “Especially our seniors. David Martinez and Tyrone Chambers both started the season in one spot and showed immense growth throughout the year. David did great. Tyrone could play all four spots one through four for us and he was able to give everybody a break.”
Bachelor said his team played well down the stretch to turn things around and earn a postseason berth.
“We play good with our backs against the wall,” Bachelor said. “Mental toughness is an important part of basketball and it’s something we are getting better and better at.”
The Red Devils (7-13) should return most of the team’s biggest pieces next season.
“Captain and Jaxson Halttunen are our two guys that can play almost any position and who we really count on,” Bachelor said.
“Julian is our young freshman and we put the ball in his hands late. He played really well and it didn’t always go perfectly, but I have the utmost faith in him.”
Lopez 54, Neah Bay 53
Lopez 17 14 9 14 — 54
Neah Bay 7 18 19 9 — 53
Lopez (54) — Kramer 14, Hamilton 13, Johnson 12, Conner 9, Jones 6.