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Rainier Beach boys sink Bremerton to open state basketball tournament
TACOMA — After an 11-year absence, the Bremerton boys basketball team proved it can compete on the state's biggest stage.
The Knights opened the Class 3A state tournament Wednesday with a 67-63 loss to perennial powerhouse Rainier Beach High School at the Tacoma Dome.
Considered a heavy underdog against the state's No. 2-ranked team, Bremerton nearly overcame a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit behind 30 points and 15 rebounds from Seattle University-bound senior Jarell Flora.
"Our kids played their hearts out," coach Casey Lindberg said. "I kind of thought today was going to be our day, but it wasn't."
Trailing 54-37 with seven minutes to play, Bremerton (16-8) used a 19-6 run to pull within four points at the 2:30 mark. Rainier Beach missed six free throws over the final two-plus minutes, but the Knights were unable to capitalize.
After a series of fouls over the final two minutes, an Andre Coleman 3-pointer bounced off the rim as time expired, ending a gritty comeback bid.
Flora led all scorers but struggled at times during the first half, facing double teams and a constant pressure from the Vikings defense. But he scored 13 points in the fourth quarter to help the Knights outscore the Vikings 26-15.
"We hung with them pretty much," Flora said. "It's probably something I'll remember my entire life."
Both the beginning of the game and second half weren't memorable for the Knights, who fell behind 10-2 before the crowd had even settled into their seats. After scratching to within 35-29 at halftime, they then allowed an 8-1 run to open the third quarter and fell behind by 13.
But each time it appeared the Vikings (23-3) would pull away, Bremerton had an answer.
Coleman scored 12 points, Sabian Perrigo added eight and seven rebounds and Terrick McGhee finished with nine points. Rainier Beach had four scorers in double figures, but the team was 15.8 percent from 3-point range and shot 40.8 percent overall.
The Knights dropped to the consolation bracket and face North Central High School (15-11) Thursday.
Bremerton's last state-tournament victory was in 1999, when the team placed fifth. Entering Thursday's game, the team needs to win three games in as many tries to equal that finish.
"Anybody who watched that game today walked away saying, 'Bremerton's got some heart,'" Lindberg said. "They played a great game."