SPOKANE — The year before, Almira/Coulee-Hartline couldn't wait to get out of the building, grabbing their stuff and clearing out in a hurry after losing in double-overtime in the 1B Hardwood Classic championship game.
This year was a little different for Warriors seniors Maguire Isaak, Hayden Loomis and Gage Burchill. They quite literally grew up in the Spokane Arena, having played all four years of their high school careers in the building. More importantly, all four years on Saturday. The Warriors (20-6) played for two 1B state championships, finished third, and with Saturday's 68-44 loss to Muckleshoot Tribal, fifth place.
It's not the trophy they set out to bring back, but there's something to be said for the journey and the company that you keep.
“To play here on Saturday all four years is a testament to our coaching,” said Maguire Isaak, who scored 15 points and had three blocked shots in the final game of his high school career. “It says a lot for the guys around me. There's been a lot of great guys play for us every year.
“I have a lot of great memories of this place, but mostly it's the people that have been here with me that matter.”
They sat deep inside the Spokane Arena long after the rest of the team cleared out, just the three of them in an empty locker room, each with his own private thoughts on the final game of their high school careers. Hayden Loomis was a role player as a freshman on that great 2015-16 team that went 25-0 into the title game and finished as the state runner-up. No championships, but it's been a good run, he said.
“Playing here is everything a player could ever ask for. Some of my greatest memories are in this arena, playing with my best friends with one goal in mind,” the 5-foot-11 guard said. “We've been so fortunate to make it here four years in a row, and even though it didn't work out like we hoped, I couldn't be more thankful.”
They didn't have much left in the tank after Friday night's 55-53 loss to Yakama Tribal in the 1B semifinals. One minute they were a shot or two away from a second consecutive championship game, the next they're playing for third-fifth place. But they played hard Saturday afternoon.
Muckleshoot Tribal jumped out to a 20-4 lead, led by as many as 30, then made it 17-point difference going into the final eight minutes. ACH never did lead, they just played their hearts out trying to catch up with a team that outrebounded them 41-21 with 12 coming on the offensive glass.
“Our fans are great. You look up in the stands and you see maybe 400 people, which is basically your whole town, cheering you on.
“It's nice having that support. They're everywhere. Even when we go visit some other team's gym, we usually have more fans than they do,” Burchill said.
The Warriors won 16 of their last 19 games, but they didn't have an answer for the Muckleshoot perimeter game, which shot 33 of 72 from the field, including 7 of 19 from 3-point range.
Their plans include college, but this was the final basketball game, and they went out slugging on the Spokane Arena floor on Saturday afternoon one more time.
MT 24 15 16 13 - 68
ACH 9 13 14 8 - 44
Muckleshoot Tribal - Kobe Courville 13, Ryan Thompson 6, Kash Nichols 20, Darius Nichols 16, Lamont Nichols 4, Erick Elkins 3, Juan Romero 6. Totals: 33-72 9-10 68
Almira/Coulee-Hartline - Hayden Loomis 3, Brayton Schafer 10, Reece Isaak 9, Maguire Isaak 15, Grady Murray 4, Gage Burchill 3. Totals: 21-79 7-8 44