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Winlock shocks district champs and advance to state

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Winlock's Caleb Rose (#30) applies a block on a desperate Adna shooter in the closing seconds of a Saturday victory that sends the Cardinals to the WIAA State Tournament in Spokane.

In a welcome upset, the Winlock boys basketball team has progressed to the state tournament after beating Adna 44-38 in the WIAA Regional playoffs at Mark Morris High School Saturday evening.

Most surprised were the folks clad in white and their black-clad fans in the stands (Toledo) who were recently crowned District IV Champions. After all, Toledo took care of Winlock twice in the regular season 65-52 at home and 66-62 at Winlock.

The Pirates were brimming with confidence and good reason to believe they would advance with the other seven winners this weekend to the 2B WIAA Hardwood Classic for one final tournament in the Spokane Coliseum.

One element that eluded all but the coaches, and most players, was the fact the Cardinals were at least one man down during meetings. Mike Blum missed the first get-together due to the passing of his father in late November while the second match was part of a four game stretch that Caleb Rose missed due to injury and sickness.

It was Rose that had a career night this time with 17 points and 16 rebounds as the Cardinals dominated inside the paint with a 47-23 rebounding advantage. But Rose said defense was the number one factor in this win.

“We just stuck to the game plan which is keep every team under 40 points," said the soft-spoken Rose. “We were able to do that tonight. That is all for coach, just getting us to the mentality of shutting them down.”

Coach Dennis Tauscher deserves much credit after taking over a very unhealthy program, picked to finish near the bottom of the Central League by just about everyone. He was almost at a loss for words after the game.

"They believed they could do it,” he said of his players. “Somehow they trusted me and I told them they could do it. Somewhere along the way, they decided they could too."

This is a team that started out 1-8 in their first nine games but finished the season 10-6 in their last 16 games in what is thought to be the toughest conference and district in Washington 2B basketball. For Enrique Hernandez and Blum, guys that have been playing varsity basketball for Winlock for four and three years respectively, this year has been particularly enjoyable. The Winlock basketball program won just eight games in the last three seasons under a different head coach.

“People said that we wouldn't make district and we won our first two games there,” said Blum. “Now we have beaten the district champs and we are headed to state. All I can say is don't count us out.”

Early in the game, you could have almost deleted the Cardinals out of this one. After leading at the end of one quarter 12-11, Winlock surrendered the advantage and added only four points in the second stanza. After the halftime break, the Pirates extended their lead to 25-16 before they went cold.  By late in the 4th quarter, Adna was missing shots badly and Cardinals calmly and coolly took over the game.

Winlock shot 14 free throws, as their defense shut down the Pirate shooting but the Adna defenders always seemed to be a step behind and were whistled for ten fouls in the 4th quarter alone. Winlock made only nine of 14 free throws down the stretch, which may be the only downside to their game this day.   

Something else about this game made observers across the area take notice.  Hernandez was not the leading scorer. All season he has been the team MVP with big scoring outputs but struggled at times in this and other recent games as he faced special defensive schemes to limit his production.

"We talked in the locker room. When teams come out press on Enrique, you have to pick up your game," said big man Chance Fisher. “You have to step it up or you are going to go home. A lot of guys didn't want to go home.”

“He has brought them along," said Tauscher of Hernandez, but he too acknowledged that his team had developed into something pretty special. “I never knew how good they were. I didn't know they were so good.”

Yes, it is special, and it is not coming to an end until next weekend when the final eight teams take the floor in Spokane with the footwear of the Cardinals looking a little like that of a slipper.

Note-The Cardinals defeated North Beach 54-40 on Monday, Feb. 18, to earn the number five seed from District IV and the right to play the top seeded Adna in the WIAA State Regional playoffs. Hernandez scored 20 points while Rose finished with 13 points and 11 rebounds. Winlock is scheduled to play Wahkiakum for the fifth time in the opening round of the WIAA State Tournament Thursday morning at 9 a.m.

Winlock Scoring vs North Beach – Enrique Hernandez 20, Caleb Rose 13, Cory McNelly 6, Micheal Blum 5, Skylar Treymayne 4, Chance Fisher 3, Shad Coleman 2.

Winlock Scoring vs Adna – Michael Blum 6, Chance Fisher 2, Enrique Hernandez 12, Ben Martin 2, Cory McNelly 3, Caleb Rose 17, Skylar Tremayne 2.
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