Zillah Ends Year with 76-73 Win over Northwest, Finishes Third at State
Despite losing a heart-breaker to Freeman in the state semi-finals, Zillah maintained a positive mental attitude. It might've won them their final game of the season.
"We wanted to bounce back," said senior guard Payton Whitaker, "We didn't play our best, so we re-focused and went all in for today's game."
Zillah point guard Antonio Salinas was on fire to start this third place game against Northwest. He had 22 points with five minutes left in the second quarter.
The rest of Zillah was struggling however, something that Cesar Diaz acknowledged.
"Our defense wasn't getting back in the first half. We weren't hustling, those small things cost us."
Northwest took a 38-32 lead going into halftime.
But Zillah has a knack for finding their way in the second half, as they notably did twice this year against Selah and Freeman. it was no different against Northwest.
The Leopards came roaring back with a 41-23 stretch in the second half. This gave Zillah a a comfortable 70-61 lead with 4 minutes left in the game.
Northwest would begin to put together their own comeback. A couple three-pointers by junior's Isiah Jeannot and Gray Davidson pulled Northwest within 1 point with 2:36 left in the game.
"Coach Mengarelli told us to just have fun, give it your all and don't give up," said Cesar Diaz during a crucial timeout the fourth quarter,
Northwest would not complete the comeback, and Antonio Salinas was able to end the game at the free throw line.
Salinas had one of his finest performances of the season. He finished with 39 points, including a high quality 7-13 from the 3-point line.
Zillah Basketball graduates two seniors from their program: Payton Whitaker and Adrian Torres.
Payton Whitaker will be attending Eastern Oregon next year on a football scholarship, while Adrian Torres will be attending Yakima College. Both will be studying agricultural science.
When asked to describe his Zillah experience, Payton Whitaker was left speechless.
"Oh gosh, it's an amazing experience. The stuff, the pride pack, that everybody does, the Zillah community itself. It's been amazing to be apart of it."
"I've been here my whole life, I've grown up with most of these guys, it really is a close family," said Adrian Torres on his time at Zillah.
All five Zillah starters will return in 2019. All 5 starters received SCAC all-conference honors this season.
For the ninth straight year, Zillah should be a serious contender to win a state championship.