An explosive second half propelled the Washington Purgolders to a 98-71 win over Tosa East in the WIAA Division 2 Regional Final at Washington on Saturday evening.
The Purgolders took an early lead and carried that lead through the first half, but the Red Raiders kept clawing their way back into the game. Down by 7 at 23-16, consecutive threes from Mahlik Lindsey brought the Raiders to within 23-22, only to see the Purgolders extend their lead again. The Raiders were again down by 7 near the end of the half, but a 6-point run from Washington, highlighted by a dunk from Jalen Stephen-Holmes, put the Purgolders up at halftime, 54-41.
Washington took that momentum and used it throughout the second half.
“Early on, they were hitting a lot of threes,” Purgolders coach Fred Riley said. “They got some good looks, and those guys got some quick releases. We were there on the close out, but because their triggers are so fast, they were able to get those shots off, and they were making them. We made an adjustment at halftime, told them that we want to close out a little quicker on the shooters.”
The second half opened poorly for Tosa East, as Washington’s Tyree Ellis hit two threes to start the half and put East in a 60-41 hole. Tosa East coach Tim Arndorfer felt that the result was a simple matter.
“We ran into a hurricane, to be honest,” he said. “I don’t know what their shooting was from the outside; that was very much unexpected, but that’s a credit to them. I’m not sure how many teams would have beaten Milwaukee Washington tonight. Just too much offensively for us -- size, athleticism, and they played a very intelligent game, as well. We hoped at some point they’d start missing shots, and they didn’t. Some of that was on the interior, but I don’t know how you beat this team if they’re making shots from the outside the way they did tonight. Our guys fought, they clawed, but sometimes the other team’s just bigger and stronger and better. Tonight, that was the case.”
“I think they kind of wore out in the second half,” added Riley. “Last night, they had a tough night, a rival game with Tosa West, and I saw their point guard started cramping up at the end, and I knew that was going to maybe play a factor in tonight’s game.”
Tyree Ellis led the game with 33 points, and Deontay Long added 25 for the Purgolders, who scored 90 or more points for the ninth time this season.
“It starts off with my team actually getting me the ball,” Long said. “A lot of guys trap me a lot, so when I make the extra pass, they make a pass back, and all I’ve got to do is really make shots. That makes the game easier for me. I feel like we’re all coming together as a team. I really don’t honestly care about my stats, I just want to win.”
The Red Raiders finished their season with a 14-11 record and a 10-4 record that was good for second place in the Greater Metro Conference. Washington improved to 20-4 and will face Pius XI on Thursday.
Riley is anticipating the game with caution.
"One thing about coach Claassen, you can’t turn the ball over against him. They’re not going to beat themselves, they’re going to be very solid, but I know they took a hit when one of their starters blew out his Achilles, so that’s going to be a challenge for them. I expect them to come out and fight.”
“I know it’s going to be a tough game,” added Long. “They’re probably going to trap me and Tyree. I know they’re going to play hard, they’ve got a very nice coach. I know it’s going to be a tough game.”