MOSES LAKE — The Wenatchee boys knew a win Friday night against the Moses Lake Chiefs would clinch the third seed in the district playoffs, home court advantage and another matchup against the sixth-seeded Chiefs.
The pressure was on.
Losing the lead late in the first quarter, Wenatchee trailed in the second half until surging late to lock up the third seed at districts with a 77-68 win.
“It was an all-out battle,” said Wenatchee Head Coach Travis Williams. “Our defense wasn’t very good. Chase Loidhamer is big for us defensively and he was out with an injury so that hurt us. But we kept chipping away at the lead.”
For a moment, it looked like Moses Lake was about to top its own momentum when Karstetter, one of the Chiefs’ main weapons, blocked a shot but as he came down, he rolled an ankle and was carried off the court. He would later come back in the second, but briefly. Moses Lake finished the quarter with the lead, 15-12.
The start of the second quarter was more back-and-forth until the Chiefs went on an 11-4 run to build the lead to 10. Garrett Long responded and led a 7-1 Wenatchee run to narrow the deficit to four.
The Panthers finished the half with energy when Long swatted away a Chiefs’ field-goal attempt and Nathan Blauman knocked down a pair of free throws with two seconds left, still trailing 36-32.
Long kicked off the third quarter by scoring the first seven points for the Panthers but the Chiefs’ offensive production never ceased and they were able to hold the lead by outscoring the Panthers, 18-17.
With the lead dangling in front of the Panthers, Long seemed to take it upon himself to will Wenatchee to a win. That isn’t to say there weren’t many key plays from other teammates.
Blauman was always an offensive threat. Logan Bailey, who may not have had high stats, almost always seemed to pop up with a key charge, steal or block to help swing the momentum in Wenatchee’s favor.
“Garrett Long took over in the final quarter,” said Williams. “They had no answer.”
But Long saved 20 of his career-high 44 points and uncorked them in the final quarter.
After a close and contentious battle and trailing most of the game, Wenatchee finally regained the lead halfway through the quarter and slowly increased it.
“We had to keep our composure, play hard and be aggressive,” said Long about the final quarter. “They were giving me the driving lane, and if they took it away, I could pull up. No game is going to be easy. You can’t take them lightly.”
Long led Wenatchee with 44 points and Blauman added 15.
Moses Lake’s Logan Sperline finished with 20. Wenatchee finishes the regular season 7-5 in league and 11-9 overall. Moses Lake finishes 2-10 in league and 4-15 overall.
Wenatchee plays Moses Lake at home in the first round of the district playoffs Tuesday, Feb. 18, at 6 p.m.