Despite losing losing scorer Corey Kispert, the Knights beat La Center 51-48. They will pla Freeman in a rematch of last year’s title game.

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YAKIMA — The King’s Knights continue to defy odds in pursuit of a third straight Class 1A state boys basketball championship.

And coach Rick Skeen is happy to keep rolling the dice after Thursday’s 51-48 victory over La Center that puts them in the semifinals for the fifth year in a row.

No. 4 King’s of Shoreline (22-5) plays No. 1 Freeman (23-1) Friday at 7:15 p.m. at the SunDome – a rematch of last year’s title game. Freeman thumped No.7 Warden Thursday, 67-48, behind the 32 points of Michael Coumont.

The scenario seemed unlikely a month ago, when the Knights lost their best player, Gonzaga-bound Corey Kispert, to a broken foot.

“I’m so proud of this group,” Skeen said. “Five years in a row in the state semis, this is a great accomplishment. We feel like we’re playing with borrowed money. No pressure on us. Nobody expects us to be here. … The pressure’s on the other folks and we get to play loose and hopefully we play better than we did today.”

Because at times this one wasn’t pretty as the Knights missed countless point-blank shots under the basket.

“On the bright side, you don’t want to play your best game on Thursday, and that was not our best game,” Skeen said. “And I say that saying La Center played us really well. I don’t want to take anything away from them.”

No. 6 La Center (17-6), which had to come from behind in the final quarter to beat No. 14 La Salle in Wednesday’s elimination round, refused to fold after trailing by six in the final 50 seconds. The Wildcats countered six clutch King’s free throws with a trio of three-pointers, the last by freshman Hunter Ecklund with 2.5 seconds left to cut the lead to 50-48.

King’s got the ball inbound to Dawson Percello to basically clinch the victory as he was fouled with just .2 seconds on the clock (he made one of two free throws).

The Wildcats had no reason to hang their heads.

“That’s a great team right there,” coach Jeremy Ecklund said of King’s. “For us to have them on the ropes like that and to step up to that challenge just speaks volumes about what this team has accomplished.”

King’s, which trailed 12-5 in the first quarter, fell into early foul trouble got great play off the bench from sophomores Nate Kleppe, Luke Bobin and Hunter Reeves and juniors Levi Bundrant and Taylor Schoenfeld.

“I thought they really stepped up,” Skeen said.

After Matt Baher buried a three-pointer to cut it to 46-45 with 21 seconds left, Reeves  calmly sank two free throws.

“It was a big moment for my first time in the Dome,” he said. “I remembered from all my training the last few months, just slow down, take your time and knock them down.”

Porcello led King’s with 12 points, while Josh Frohardt had 11. Chewy Zevenbergen added eight points and a team-high six rebounds, five offensive. He had two big tip plays in the final quarter.

“I wanted to keep crashing the boards,” he said.

Fellow senior Luke Wicks came up with his fourth steal of the game and followed with two key free throws for a 50-45 lead with 7.7 seconds left.

“We’ve seen the film and I knew exactly what play it was … so I just jumped it, he said.


• All three Seattle-area girls teams lost quarterfinal matchups in the Class 2A/1A tourney. Bellevue Christian lost in the 1A tourney to Okanogan 58-33. In 2A, White River lost to Lynden 64-42 and Archbishop Murphy lost to WF West 58-44.