Cruisers drop district championship game to Rockets, 44-42

 Cruisers drop district championship game to Rockets, 44-42

Cruisers drop district championship game to Rockets, 44-42

Looking to do something no other boys basketball team has done at Eatonville since 1968, when coach Larry Hosley led the team to capture the district title, the Cruisers stepped into Bo Griffith Memorial Gym at Montesano High School on Friday night looking to snap that 54-year-old district championship winless streak.

The Castle Rock Rockets had something to say about that.

While they enjoyed a 13-point lead at the half, Eatonville couldn't close it out and were outscored 27-12 in the second half, as the Castle Rock Rockets went on to seal a 44-42 victory and become the 2022 Southwest District IV champions.

Turnovers plagued the Rockets in the first half, which allowed the Cruisers to enjoy a double-digit lead at the half.

In the second half, the roles were reversed, and the Cruisers struggled with the turnover bug and also had a few key players get into foul trouble.

In the final quarter and the Cruisers trailing by one with 20 seconds on the clock, Kyle Cox pulled down a rebound off a missed Castle Rock free throw and sailed the pass down the court. It was tipped by a Rockets player, which allowed his teammate to pick the ball off and was subsequently fouled. He  made the first free throw and missed the second to extend their lead to 44-42.

Trailing by two with six and a half seconds remaining, the Cruisers quickly pushed the ball up court to try and tie or win the game. They found Jakob Lucht in the corner, but his shot missed the mark.

Shay Brannon led the Cruisers with nine points and 15 rebounds. Jake Wood scored eight points and pulled down 11 rebounds. Cox had seven points and three rebounds, and Reilly McIlraith was limited to seven points.

Although it was a hard loss, head coach Mark Swartout said he and his team aren't going to dwell on the past.

"I'm proud of these young men,” he said. “We had a couple of our key players get into foul trouble, and that made it tough down the stretch. We are looking forward, not backward. We have a big game ahead of us next weekend, and we need to get these guys where they need to be.”

That big game Swartout is referring to is the regional round of the 2022 WIAA Hardwood Classic state basketball tournament, which starts Friday. The WIAA seeding committee has given Eatonville a No. 15 seed. The Cruisers will play No. 10 seed Seattle Academy Cardinals at noon Saturday at Bellevue College.


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