NEW YORK – The Rainier Beach High School boys basketball team lost to Findlay Prep, 67-59, Thursday in the first round of the Dick’s Sporting Goods High School National Tournament.
Beach’s De’Jounte Murray, a junior with interest from top college programs, scored a team-high 19 points, including 17 in the second half. Louisville signee Shaqquan Aaron chipped in 12 points.
The Vikings, seeded second, faced a tough opponent in the Pilots, seeded seventh, who have won this tournament three times in five years (2009, 2010, 2012) and have three ESPN top-100 ranked players. Findlay Prep, in Henderson, Nev., is where Washington freshman guard Nigel Williams-Goss played.
Findlay Prep made 18 of 29 from the free-throw line. Rainier Beach was 6 of 9.
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“We shot poorly in the first half,” Rainier Beach coach Mike Bethea said of the game played at Christ the King High School. “We weren’t playing with our usual energy. We weren’t hitting shots. Some of our big shot-makers, this just wasn’t their day.”
Going into the second half, the Vikings were down by just three points (26-23) and a trip to the semifinals still seemed attainable. But the Pilots started the second half on a 17-6 run, causing Bethea to call a timeout with his squad down 43-29. During the timeout, he tried to spark his team.
“When the kids finally realized, ‘Hey, we’re in a position to lose our first game,’ they played with a sense of urgency,” Bethea said. “I loved our energy down the stretch. But bottom line is you have to maintain that for 32 minutes.”
The Vikings were hurt when center Elijah Foster (five points) fouled out in the second half.
Findlay Prep outscored Rainier Beach 20-15 in the third quarter.
After appealing to the WIAA to participate in this tournament, an early exit wasn’t the outcome that the 30-1 Vikings desired. When asked if the battle with the WIAA was worth it, Bethea was confident.
“It was definitely worth it,” he said. “It wasn’t about Rainier Beach doing it. It was about setting a precedent. Not just for Washington but for around the country.”