The Times - Serving Waitsburg, Dayton and the Touchet Valley

By Dave Schreindl
the Times 

Wa-Hi season one come-from-behind attempt too short


February 27, 2020

Eric Umphrey

Jacob Coram fires a three over 6'6" Nathan Hocking.

WALLA WALLA-The Blue Devils came up just short of moving on in the postseason as Wa-Hi's Diego Jaques off-balanced three-point shot clanged off the front of the iron as the Ferris Saxons left the building with a heart-breaking win 65-62.

"It is a shame we wound up on the short side, and we don't get to play any more basketball," Head Coach Adam Berg said. "We have worked hard enough to deserve to be playing more."

The Greater Spokane/Mid-Columbia Conference District 8 lost concluded Wa-Hi's season record at 17-6.

"It's playoff basketball," Berg said. "You've got two good teams. We had runs back and forth, a testament to our guys mental and physical toughness. But you have to give Ferris credit, they did the same thing."

Wa-Hi got off to its traditional slow start which quickly silenced the crowd. After winning the tip, Ferris' Cole Omlin scored the first points of the game hitting one of two free throws. He was fouled by senior Dylan Ashbeck. Ashbeck would spend the rest of the quarter on the bench with his second foul in the first 40 seconds of the game. His traditional offensive and defensive talents were greatly missed.

"Dylan getting those early fouls – and I'm not the referee, and of course I am biased – kind of took us out of it," Berg said. "He is an important player. He does a lot that goes unnoticed and we need him when we are pressed."

Berg was referring to Ferris' choice to press the Blue Devils from the outset of the game, just as Mead had done the week before. For the most part, Wa-Hi handled the press but they were unable to hit the early open shots, falling behind 12-5 to the Ferris Saxons.

Junior Jacob Coram, playing with an injured hand, turned things around by hitting a three to make it 12-8 and gave hope to a rocking student section. Coram would finish with nine points, all treys.

"Going out like that when we know we had a good chance at advancing to state gives us a good taste of what it'll be like next year," Coram said.

The Blue Devils started their first comeback over the final three minutes of the first quarter. Junior Michael Cornia, who scored a game-high 27 points, rebounded a Coram miss and put it back for two points. After a Brandon Smith's single free throw, Jaques scored three of his 12 points. Then Coram hit back-to-back three-pointers to give Wa-Hi its first lead of the game 20-18.

At the end of the second quarter, after several lead changes, Ferris took a 36-29 lead into the halftime intermission. The Saxon's took advantage of several Blue Devil turnovers and scored four buckets over the final minute of the second quarter on shots by Omlin, who finished with a team high 16 points, and Zach Fleming, who finished with 14 points.

After Fleming scored the first points of the second half for Ferris, it looked like Wa-Hi was finally going to take a lead for good. Cornia scored six straight points, and Jaques drove to the basket and scored on a sweet loft shot to make the score 38-37 for the Saxons. Wa-Hi's Ashbeck had a huge three-point play on a put-back bucket after a miss by Coram, and hit the free throw to tie up the score at 40 apiece as he was fouled on the play.

After trading a few baskets, Cornia brought the house down with a steal and layup with 31 seconds left to end the third quarter at 51-49 in favor of Ferris. The teams spent the majority of the fourth quarter trading the lead with the final tie coming after two free throws by Ashbeck with three minutes left. Wa-Hi would take its last lead on two free throws by Cornia at 62-60.

Fleming hit the go ahead three-pointer with two minutes left, and McCoy Spink scored on a layup with 57 seconds left to make it 65-62.

Going into next year, the Blue Devils bring back a strong core of players that show a potential for a great season. Wa-Hi will lose seniors Dylan Ashbeck and Joshia Wik.

"Dylan is just a great teammate," Berg said of the senior who spent most of the first quarter in foul trouble. "He sat there and was cheering, and was the first off the bench to high-five the guys. I wish I could coach him over and over."

Ashbeck reflected on his time at Wa-Hi.

"The past four years have been truly amazing," Ashbeck said. "Over those years I've had a different coach every year (three being varsity coaches). So, I've had to adjust a little each year, but I wouldn't change it. I loved all of them.

"Throughout the years I've had one coach that has been there the whole time and that's coach Gary Peasley," he said. "He has helped me so much and I can't thank him enough. The last game was a rough one where we really didn't find our stride for a while, but the young guys stepped up and they will come back even stronger next year. Coach Berg has the program going in the right direction and in years to come will only get better."

"I love those guys," Berg said of his two seniors. "All the returners will reap the benefit of all their work."

1st 2nd 3rd 4th Final

Ferris 18 18 15 14 65

Wa-Hi 20 9 20 13 62

Ferris (65): Omlin 16, Floyd 14, Fleming 14, Spink 12, Hocking 5, Bowton 4. 3-pts: 4, Floyd 2, Fleming 2. Fouls: 16. Turnovers: 13. Free Throws: 7-8. Assists 7. Rebounds 28.

Wa-HI (62): Cornia 27, Jaques 12, Ashbeck 10, Coram 9, Wasser 3, Smith 1. 3-pts: 6, Coram 3, Jaques 2, Wasser. Fouls: 9. Turnovers: 14. Free Throws: 8-11. Assists 10. Rebounds 24.


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