Zillah’s Inspired Comeback Falls Short 76-67 Against #2 Freeman
Zillah played some tough games this year; against the likes of Selah, Mark Morris, and Kittitas. And they beat them all.
But Zillah had not faced a team like Freeman.
Freeman's roster boasted eight seniors returning from last year's state championship appearance (a loss to Zillah).
Their roster as a whole averaged 6-3 across the board, something they used to their advantage against the comparatively diminutive Zillah team.
For the first time in a long time, Zillah was looking up at a team, even if it was ever so slightly.
The first half was won by one player in particular, Freeman's 6-4 guard Michael Coumont. The senior captain had a shocking 22 points on 9-16 shooting to start the game.
"He's very similar to Elijah Pepper," said Zillah coach Mario Mengarelli, "when he's hitting like that you just can't guard him."
The scoring outbreak gave Freeman a 36-19 lead with 2:14 left in the second quarter.
Zillah would go on a 7-0 run to finish the second quarter. Behind a couple Cesar Diaz lay-ups, and a Brock Ellis 3-pointer.
Hell-bent on stopping Michael Coumont, Zillah went all out to contain the Freeman star in the second half.
As Coumont struggled, Freeman's supporting cast of Jackson Clark, Quin Hopkins, and Dylan Oga stepped up, giving Freeman a 55-38 lead with 1:58 left in the third quarter.
Something had to change for Zillah.
Duirng a break, Zillah's Antonio Salinas could be seen pacing. Talking to himself in deep concentration, while occasionally glancing up at the sea of Zillah supporters.
"I was telling to myself to stay calm, because we're built for situations like this," said Salinas, "We knew a run was going to happen."
Antonio Salinas hit back to back three's to get his team fired up. It seemed Zillah had found their offensive rhythm.
An amazing 20-4 run ensued. The stretch closed Freeman's lead to 59-57 with 5 minutes left in the game. The comeback took only four minutes to achieve.
After a couple game-tying shots didn't fall for Zillah, Freeman's Michael Coumont regained his first half form, carrying his team to a 76-67 win in the final minutes.
"We had some foul trouble early that we had to get away from," said Coach Mengarelli in the post-game, "we were out of whack for Zillah Basketball, and we were just a little late to get over the hump. I want to say thank you to all the valley people that came out to support us, it means everything to our program."
Freeman's win will match them up with #1 Lynden Christian in the 1A State Championship Saturday night.
It can't be understated how bright Zillah Basketball's future is.
With all five starters returning, and several reserve players also coming back, Zillah will once again be a state contender in 2019.
Zillah will get their shot at an encore game at 11:15 am Saturday against The Northwest School. The winner will take home a third place finish at the state tournament.