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State 3A boys: North Central falters in second half, falls to Rainier Beach 64-53

Feb. 29—The past two weeks have been rarified air for the North Central boys basketball team. First, it knocked off Mt. Spokane, ranked third in the state at the time, for its first district championship in 32 years.

The Wolfpack followed that by claiming a protected No. 8 seed to state — their first state appearance since 2011 — and making the most of it, upsetting No. 1 Auburn 60-54 in an opening round game, earning a bye into a Thursday's State 3A quarterfinal at Tacoma Dome and a date with perennial powerhouse Rainier Beach, the 10th seed.

The Vikings may not be as highly ranked this season as in year's past, but maybe that storied history made a difference down the stretch.

Tied at halftime, Rainier Beach outscored NC 34-23 in the second half and pulled away for a 64-53 win.

Rainier Beach (16-10) faces fourth-seeded O'Dea, a 48-43 winner over Garfield in an earlier quarterfinal. North Central (19-6) takes on Garfield in the fourth-place bracket Friday at 9 a.m.

Dominik Robinson led Beach with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Kaden Powers and Nyale Robinson added 14 apiece.

NC was led by Eli Williams with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Jacori Ervin had 16 points, eight board and four blocked shots and JuJu Ervin added 11 points and seven rebounds.

"We might not be the champions, but we've got to act like champions," NC coach Rob Sacre said. " And that's the hardest part, you know, when you get knocked down to get back up. We've got to figure out that lesson."

"It was just that third quarter right there," Williams said of the difference in the game. "I feel like we were we were supposed to be (leading) more than what we were. We missed a lot of free throws, we could have controlled more rebounds and stuff. So, it was good to experience this, and I wish I could come back for another year, but it is what it is."

"He's the heart and soul of this team," Sacre said of Williams. "I'm very fortunate and blessed to be able to coach him because, man, he makes my job so much easier. So, I'm so grateful to have him and I know some DI school is going to be after him for sure."

There was not an abundance of scoring early, but the Wolfpack did manage to get Beach into foul trouble, with 12, 24 and 34 all picking up two fouls apiece in the first 3 minutes of the game.

NC couldn't take a real advantage of the fouls, going 4 for 11 at the line, but Williams hit a couple of 3s down the stretch and it was tied at 18 after one.

Williams picked up his second foul early in the second and sat. The Wolfpack went to the Ervin brothers inside, and both picked up buckets and free throws to put NC up by five.

JuJu Ervin had eight in the period, but Beach clawed back and a 3 by reserve guard Koodzi Ross at the horn tied it at 30.

It stayed tight through the third quarter, but Nyale Robinson hit a pair of 3s from NBA range late in the period and Beach led 47-41 entering the fourth quarter.

Williams and Jacori Ervin both picked up their fourth fouls early in the fourth. Kaden Powers hit a corner 3 to put Beach up 55-46 with 4 minutes to go, then Powers drove and fed Dominik Robinson for a two-handed jam to make it a 12-point game at the 3-minute mark.

So, the Wolfpack won't be playing for the trophy they wanted, but Sacre and Williams were able to put it into perspective.

"What a great experience for us," Sacre said. "We're putting North Central on the map and we're gonna just keep building on this program."

"We'll play tomorrow we're going to play as long as we can," Williams said. "And I'm just I'm glad I'm here with my brothers. We've already made so much history as is NC, so I feel like we're gonna come out here and we're gonna give it all we've got tomorrow."