Cruiser boys basketball headed to state

Playing with two of their key starters out, the Cruisers needed double overtime to put away the La Center Wildcats, 86-82, behind the 40 points and 11 rebounds of Reilly McIlraith to advance to the second round of the District 4 playoffs.

Eatonville fought back from a six-point deficit after the first quarter to trail by one at the half and then even the game up at 52 at the end of the third frame.

With less than a second left in the game and both teams knotted up at 67, the Cruisers had a chance to win the game but missed two key free throws, and the game went into overtime.

In the extra period, both teams traded baskets and ended the first overtime tied at 76.

In double overtime, La Center pulled out to a four-point lead missed many crucial free throws that left the door open for the Cruisers to get back in the game.

With 15 seconds on the clock, Brandon Storm picked off a Wildcat pass and dribbled up court, and the Cruisers called a timeout. On the ensuing inbound play, the Wildcats fouled McIlraith and sent him to the line for two free throws. He sank one to give the Cruisers an 84-82 lead with 10 seconds left in the second overtime.

The Wildcats brought the ball the up court and gave it to their leading scorer on the night, freshman Boston Walker, who tried to tie the game up, but he was fouled and sent to the line for two free throws. He missed the first and then attempted to miss the second to get the rebound and put it back up to tie the game, but Walker crossed the free-throw line before his shot went into the basket, and the point was waived off. The Cruisers inbounded the ball, leading 84-82, with 1.8 seconds on the clock.

On the inbounds play, the Wildcats immediately fouled McIlraith, and he went to the free-throw line with four-tenths of a second on the clock and sank both attempts to give the Cruisers the victory.

In addition to McIlraith's 40 points and 11 rebounds, Jakob Lucht scored 19 and Walker Bruun 14.

"I knew that with two of our starters out, I would definitely have to step up both scoring and as a leader,” McIlraith said. “I also knew that I wouldn't be able to do it alone and that others would have to step up also. That's exactly what happened with Jakob (Lucht) hitting some huge shots and then Brandon (Storm) and Walker (Bruun) making clutch plays on defense."

In regards to McIlraith's career-best 40-point outburst, head coach Mark Swartout praised his senior point guard's play.

"Reilly has had the best week of basketball I've seen in Eatonville ever,” he said. “He's a gap filler. If we need rebounding, he rebounds. If we need scoring, he scores. If we need the ball distributed, he's our distributor and one of the best leaders I've ever coached."

With that win, the Cruisers moved on to the semifinals and faced the No. 2-seeded Seton Catholic Cougars on Saturday.

The Cruisers rallied from a narrow 21-17 halftime deficit to beat Seton Catholic, 47-43, in the 1A district semifinal and earn a state regional berth and a date with Castle Rock in the 1A District 4 championship game.

The Cruisers tried and fought their way through a rough shooting night to get back in the game but found themselves trailing 39-33 entering the final quarter.

Eatonville trimmed that lead to 39-37 thanks to a 5-0 run to start the fourth quarter, and the Cruisers outscored the Cougars 14-9 to finish the come-back and clinch a berth in the regional round of the state tournament.

Shay Brannon led the Cruisers with 21 points and eight rebounds. Eight of those points came in the final quarter. McIlraith put in 11 points and six rebounds.

"I am really proud of these young men and how hard they play,” Swartout said. “They all play with heart, and they have each other's backs. We, as a team, talk a lot about how life can put obstacles in front of you, and these guys just bust them down time and time again. The leadership from our seniors this year has been amazing. They all come from great families, so it's no wonder they are all great young men."

The Cruisers take on the Castle Rock Rockets in the 1A district championship game on Friday. The location and time of this game will be determined.


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