Lions claw their way to 1B state tourney

Feb. 24—MOSES LAKE — The Moses Lake Christian Academy/Covenant Christian School boys basketball team advanced to the quarterfinals of the 1B state basketball tournament with a 64-54 win over Cusick Friday.

It was the opening round of the 1B tournament, and MLCA/CCS coach Emerson Ferguson said it was an experience that required some adjustment from his team.

"It's a big game — we're playing at home, regionals and all that. So there were a lot of nerves," Ferguson said. "Once the boys settled in, they started playing the defense we've been playing all year, which is what got us to this point."

The Panthers had some early success driving to the basket and had a 10-9 lead midway through the quarter. The Lions tied the game at 12 and took a 17-14 lead with 20 seconds left in the first quarter.

Both teams played good defense, with Cusick forcing a 30-second violation early in the second quarter; MLCA/CCS answered with their own 30-second defensive stop later in the quarter. Cusick held MLCA/CCS scoreless through the four minutes of the second quarter, but couldn't take back the lead. MLCA/CCS went up 28-21 on an end-to-end basket by Jonah Robertson with 1:29 left in the first half.

"We were able to control (the tempo) once we settled in, probably the middle of the second quarter. We took the lead 24-21, and we didn't look back from there," Ferguson said.

"They were getting drives (early), and then we just kind of reset ourselves and the boys remembered, 'OK, I need to be here at this location to stop this,' the things we practiced leading up to the game. They just settled in and started doing it," he said.

The Lions had a 31-21 lead at the half, which they pushed to 12 at the start of the second half on a steal and quick basket. MLCA/CCS expanded the lead in the third quarter before Cusick cut into it, but the Panthers were stymied by the MLCA/CCS defense.

"That's what we were hoping for. We were hoping to be able to dictate how the game was going to go as opposed to us adjusting to what they were doing. We wanted them to adjust to us," Ferguson said. "The goal was to make that happen so they were playing our game instead of us playing their game."

The game at Moses Lake High School drew crowds from both schools, and Ferguson said he was grateful for the turnout.

"It was nice to see so much support, and it was really loud," he said. "We were just really excited to get the win at home in front of our home crowd."

The Lions' quarterfinal opponent won't be determined until after Wednesday's games in Spokane.

"We're excited about that, because the ultimate goal is to come home with a state trophy, and it's been the goal all year," Ferguson said.

With the win, the Lions advance to the quarterfinals of the 1B Boys State Basketball Tournament. They'll play their yet-to-be-determined opponent at 12:15 p.m. at the Spokane Arena

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at