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Bearcats top T-Birds to clinch state tournament berth

Feb. 16—Box Score

At W.F. West

BEARCATS 58, THUNDERBIRDS 51

W.F. West17 8 14 19 — 58

Tumwater 7 14 18 12 — 51

W.F. West (58) — Hoff 21, Eiswald 18, Klatush 14, Potter 3, Brumfield 2

Tumwater (51) — C. Morgan 21, Dillon 11, B. Morgan 8, Wilson 6, Anthony III 3, Tucker 2

In the moments following the final buzzer, amid a sea of W.F. West students and fans who made their way onto the court to celebrate, W.F. West coach Chris White made sure to find each one of his players and hug them.

Some were harder to get to then others, but White wanted to be sure to get to each player to congratulate them.

"Those are magical moments," White said. "You just want to celebrate the grit that they've showed and all the hard work."

That hard work paid off for the Bearcats in a big way on Thursday, as W.F. West knocked off Tumwater 58-51 in a winner-to-state elimination game in the 2A District 4 tournament to clinch a spot in the state tournament.

"The guys played so hard," White said. "I'm so proud of them all the way across the board. They really inspire me. They played their butts off."

A trio of seniors led the way for the Bearcats(16-6, 11-1 2A EvCo), as Lucas Hoff, Parker Eiswald, and Tyler Klatush combined for 53 of W.F. West's 58 points.

What made the moment even more special for the trio was that it came in their home gym, on a court that they assumed they wouldn't have the chance to play on again.

Low and behold, W.F. West's loss to Columbia River in the semifinal knocked them down to the elimination bracket, giving them one more chance to play on their home floor.

"You think you're done playing in here, and then the opportunity came our way to get back in here again," White said. "And what a special performance by all the seniors, those guys just went crazy tonight and did some really good things."

Hoff led the trio and the team with 21 points, and the biggest three points of the bunch came midway through the fourth quarter. After Clay Morgan hit a three to cut the W.F. West lead to just three, Hoff immediately responded with a three of his own, pushing the lead back to six and forcing a Tumwater timeout.

Of his 21 points, 13 came in the second half, including a stretch of six straight points early in the third quarter. He also hauled in four rebounds and came away with three steals.

"I think it was God's plan," Hoff said. "I think I needed one more breakout game here at home ... I'm just blessed to have it here and against our league rivals."

Eiswald capped off a 10-0 Bearcat run early in the game with a three, and he later helped ice the game by scoring nine of his 18 points in the fourth quarter. He also grabbed six rebounds.

Klatush's presence was felt throughout, as he scored 14 points and also dished out four assists.

While the Bearcats were able to hold on to a slim lead throughout most of the game, Tumwater was still within striking distance well into the fourth quarter.

After going down 10-1 early, the T-Birds (14-9, 10-2 2A EvCo) continued to chip away, and they even momentarily took a lead in the third before the Bearcats tied it back up at 39 heading into the fourth.

Tumwater coach Josh Wilson said he wasn't surprised with the way his team battled, noting "they're a group that has always done that."

"I wish we had a few plays that went our way there down the stretch," Wilson said. "But that's playoff basketball for you."

While they were disappointed to come up short, Wilson made sure that they showed love to the seniors in the locker room who had just played their final game for the Thunderbirds, a group that includes Clay Morgan, Nolan Campbell, Henry Wilson, and Reis Howell.

"Four guys that have worked really hard to get to this point, and have put a lot of time and love into the program," Wilson said. "Anytime it's the last game of the season, you just gotta love on your seniors, cause it's hard for them."

W.F. West will now wait for their seed and matchup in the regional round of the state tournament, which will take place on Friday, Feb. 23 and Saturday, Feb. 24.

While White joked that he's excited to catch his breath, he's also excited to try and continue to improve heading into next week. Hoff agreed.

"I think we're gonna put hay in the barn every day this week," Hoff said. "We just want to stack wins."