Vikings lose 1B state title game to Wellpinit after fourth-quarter collapse


SPOKANE — Luke Cooper kissed the basketball as he and the Mossyrock boys basketball team walked off the floor with their 1B second-place trophy. The Vikings senior, like many of the members of the team, felt a bittersweet feeling after they lost in the 1B state championship game, 60-56, to Wellpinit on Saturday, March 2 in Spokane.

It was the first time the boys have finished second at the 1B level and their first second-place finish since 2016 when they competed at the 2B level. To finish second in Spokane, the seventh-seeded Vikings defeated No. 1 Lummi Nation, No. 4 DeSales, and took the defending champion Wellpinit down to the wire. Even after the loss, in which Mossyrock blew a nine-point fourth-quarter lead, the Vikings motioned to their crowd to make some noise for a season few saw coming.

“I loved coaching them. We had a lot of fun. It was a really good season. I feel good right now even after that loss,” Mossyrock coach Tom Kelly said. “Nobody predicted us to be playing here.”

Both offenses torched the nets early in the first quarter, with the Vikings getting the best of Wellpinit to the tune of a 7-2 start. Within the first three minutes of action, each team had 11 points on the scoreboard, including seven from Zack Munoz, and they combined to make four triples.

Mossyrock relocated its offensive game plan from the perimeter into the paint, as Hunter Isom often found himself open for a basket under the rim. After the Vikes scored five straight to break the tie, Wellpinit quickly responded in the final minute of the first quarter to make it a 16-15 score through one quarter.

Wellpinit snatched its first lead midway through the second quarter, as the Redskins knocked down a pair of triples. Both teams exchanged field goals to finish the second half tied at 30.

Kelly believes the third quarter is the most important quarter of the game, and after a couple of lackluster third quarters earlier in the tournament, the Vikes’ defense clamped the Wellpinit offense in the third. Wellpinit scored just seven points in the period and turned the ball over eight times.

After Mossyrock took a 51-42 lead with 5 minutes and 27 seconds remaining in the fourth, the script flipped dramatically and quickly. Wellpinit rattled off 16 straight points over the course of the next four minutes, taking advantage of five Vikings turnovers during that stretch.

By the time Mossyrock finally scored again, Wellpinit had firm control of the game with a 58-54 lead with less than a minute to go. The Redskins, who outscored the Vikings 23-11 in the fourth, pushed the game out of reach with efficient free throw shooting. As the final buzzer sounded, Wellpinit hoisted the golden ball trophy for the second consecutive year.

The Vikings finished with a 19-8 record and graduate three seniors: Munoz, Isom, Luke Cooper. Munoz finished his final high school game with 14 points while Isom added 15 points and eight rebounds in his last outing.

“I tell all my seniors that when the season ends that I will bail them out of jail for a non-violent crime one time. They all have my phone number, so when they get out in the real world, they have a friend,” Kelly said of his seniors. “They left it all out there tonight, and that’s why I love them. They couldn’t have been better. They were great leaders for us, and we’ll never forget them.”