Royal holds off Wahluke; takes third at districts

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MATTAWA – It was another classic battle between the Knights and the Warriors in what was their third matchup of the season. This one was for final seeding to the regional tournament and it was Royal coming away with a 59-54 win.

“They got on us early — up 10 on us real quick,” Royal coach Ray Valle said. “We typically start off slow, but only scored four points in the first quarter, which is a bit slower than usual and it hurt us as we were down 25-16 at the break.”

Valle said the team was surprisingly hesitant with its shot selection in the first half.

“It seemed like no one wanted to shoot the ball,” he said. “But we got settled in and put up 24 points in the third quarter and were back in it.”

The Knights trailed 41-40 heading into the final 8 minutes, and then went on a 19-13 run in the fourth quarter to come away with the win.

Royal’s Isaac Ellis drained a game-high 20 points. Owen Ellis added 14. Corbin Christensen finished with 10.

Warriors coach Clayton Buck felt both squads performed well on the hardwood.

“It was a very good game by both teams,” Buck said. “We did a great job of executing our game plan in the first half, being patient on defense and attacking on offense. But in the second half we came out flat and Royal took full advantage of our effort and took over the scoring and pressured us into forced shots. We learned that we need full games – four quarters of basketball to play against playoff teams in districts.”

Sergio Pineda’s 17 points led the Warriors. Ricky Cabrera fouled out of the contest and finished with 12.

Buck reiterated he’ll need a full 32-minute effort from the team in Saturday’s first round regional loser out game with Kings Way Christian at Eisenhower High School in Yakima. The game tips off at 2 p.m.

Royal, which takes on Bellevue Christian in Ellensburg Saturday at 2 p.m. is making its deepest postseason run since the Knights qualified for the state tournament in 2001. Royal moves on to the state tournament win or lose by virtue of its Top 8 seeding in the Ranking Percentage Index (RPI). Royal comes in at No. 4. Wahluke is ranked No. 12.

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