Royal City — The gym was packed and buzzing with excitement from supporters of both teams as the classic battle between archrivals Friday night was all one would expect it to be.
The second place Warriors (7-4) came into the contest looking to knock off the top seeded and undefeated Knights (11-0), and came oh so close to doing so. But in the end it was Royal coming away with a hard fought 67-59 win.
“The atmosphere, fans and rivalry game was very intense and exciting to see for both schools — was very close from start to finish,” Warrior coach Clayton Buck said. “Both teams played very well on both ends of the court. We just ran a little short of steam at the end.”
The Knights got out to a 12-4 lead with 4:34 left in the first quarter and looked to be in control of things. But the Warriors fought back to take their first lead 30-28 with 1:37 left in first half. Wahluke extended its lead to 33-30 when Ricardo Cabrera drained a trey with 9 seconds on the clock.
The visitors from Mattawa continued to heat up to take a 51-42 lead with just over a minute to go in the third quarter. But Royal, unwilling to yield, regained the advantage 56-53 when Isaac Ellis drained a shot from beyond the arc and sank two free throws from the charity stripe with four minutes left in the game.
The Knights then went on an 11-3 run down the stretch fueled by a Corbin Christensen bucket, a trey from Sawyer Jenks and four free throws from Owen Ellis to close it out.
The victory snapped Wahluke’s four game win streak, and pushed Royal’s to 12 consecutive W’s.
“It was definitely playoff atmosphere basketball,” Knights coach Ray Valle said. “We still have some improvements to be made on defense — need to tighten some things up but overall excited about these boys’ efforts. They are tenacious and relentless group that really enjoy playing ball with each other.”
Owen Ellis led all scorers with 25 points. Corbin Christensen added 16 for Royal.
Sergio Pineda knocked down 24 points for Wahluke. Cabrera finished with 20.
It was another thriller for the Knights Saturday with Royal pulling out a five-point win over the Eagles in Connell. The teams were knotted 27-all at the break. Connell held a slim 42-40 lead heading into the final 8 minutes, but Royal outscored the home team 23-16 in the fourth to come away with the win and move to 12-0 in the SCAC East Conference standings and 16-2 overall.
Royal was back on the hardwood Tuesday, but the result of the game was not available by press time. The Knights close out regular season play on the road in Benton City Friday.