TACOMA — The first three minutes were a disaster for Bellevue.
As bad as they started, though, the Wolverines made the forgettable beginning all but a memory with their play during the next eight minutes, tearing apart Stanwood on the way to a comfortable 61-43 win in the quarterfinals of the state tournament Thursday at the Tacoma Dome.
Josh Thayer came out sizzling, hitting his first three shots to help Stanwood to an 11-2 lead. That’s when Bellevue awoke, rattling off a 26-4 run over an eight-minute stretch that quickly deflated the Spartans.
“To be honest with you, we don’t start out real fast for whatever reason, I can’t tell ya; we’ve tried everything to fix it,” Bellevue coach Chris O’Connor said. “Kind of weathered the storm and get refocused. Like I said, we just tell the guys, you can’t score a bunch of points in one possession. You just got to do it one possession at a time.”
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Kyle Foreman, who scored seven of his nine points to spark the initial Bellevue run, said the Wolverines dealt with nerves early in the game. Those disappeared, though, by the time Bellevue found itself down nine.
It didn’t all come easy after Bellevue got its emotions in check. It also had to figure out a difficult matchup zone Stanwood ran on defense that slowed the pace of the game. The Wolverines were finally able to push the tempo by running off turnovers and emphasizing swinging the ball quickly on offense.
Sharif Khan led a balanced scoring attack with 14 points, while Zack Moore added 12. Bellevue will face Rainier Beach in the semifinals at 5:30 p.m. Friday.
Thayer finished with a team-high 16 points for Stanwood and Drew Stang had 13, but the two combined for just 11 after intermission. The Spartans face Shadle Park in the consolation bracket at 10:30 a.m. Friday.
“We’re deep and it’s a 32-minute game and the goal is to play the right way for as many of those minutes as possible,” O’Connor said. “There’s going to be spurts where we don’t play the right way, but for the majority we want to make sure we do.”
Rainier Beach 74, Shadle Park 46
Rainier Beach has entered the 3A state tournament wearing a target before. But this year is different.
This year, the Vikings are not only playing as the heavy favorites to win their third straight state title, but they’re also playing for a chance to play in a national tournament in Madison Square Garden after the season. That opportunity is contingent on Beach finishing the season undefeated, and it came after a controversial decision by the WIAA to allow Beach to play in the postseason tournament.
“That’s the one thing, is the focus because of all the attention,” Rainier Beach coach Mike Bethea said after his team’s 74-46 win over Shadle Park (10-14). “There are a lot of distractions.”
Beach (27-0) handled Shadle Park — the only team in the 3A field with a losing record — from the first few minutes. The Vikings roared to a 19-4 lead at the end of the first quarter, grew it to 43-16 by halftime and led by as many as 38 in the second half.
Four Vikings scored in double digits, led by 16 points from Elijah Foster and 14 from Shaqquan Aaron.
“We came out with a sense of urgency,” Bethea said.
But Bethea wasn’t pleased with how his team finished the game. Shadle Park played Beach relatively even after halftime.
“I’m happy with the win,” Bethea said. “No doubt about it. But just the effort pissed me off down the stretch. We didn’t have it in the second half.”
Beach’s defense was swarming early, and Shadle Park shot just 27 percent. Beach, meanwhile, was able to attack the basket and get a lot of points near the rim in the first half.
In the second half, despite never losing grip on the game, Bethea thought his team let up some.
“We were kind of lethargic,” he said. “You want to get that first game out, get through the jitters and then you’re cool.”
Staff reporter Jayson Jenks
contributed to this report.