BATTLE GROUND - Salvatore Tommy Inserra dropped in 21 points, and Ryan Cadwell had a "double-double," as the Fishermen pulled out a see-saw 60-50 win over LaCenter in a loser-out Southwest Washington District IV game Tuesday.
Ilwaco trailed 26-20 at halftime, but Cadwell scored 8 quick points after intermission to tie the game 28-28. Inserra rolled in the next 9 Fishermen scores to give Ilwaco a 37-32 lead.
"Tommy (Inserra) had a great game as a finisher inside, and Ryan (Cadwell) took the team on his back the second half, pushed the ball up the floor and made the other guys follow his leadership," coach Matt Blair said following the win.
LaCenter closed to within 2 at the end of three quarters, but horrendous foul shooting by the Wildcats - 4 of 14 in the final period - proved to be their doom. Ilwaco was 14 of 20 the final eight minutes from the line.
The first half was a monumental defensive struggle with each team running a controlled, patient offense. Like a game of Chutes and Ladders, first one team would surge ahead, then the other. The Wildcats clawed to a 6-2 lead as the Fishermen didn't score for the first 4 1/2 minutes following the opening tip.
Sophomore point guard Jordan Williams' 8 points and Shane Padgett's 3 of 3 from the foul line helped awaken Ilwaco's offense as they went on a 13-4 scoring binge. Wildcat sharpshooter Casey Roach then sparked an 11-0 run for his squad by hitting on two jumpers and two treys to close out the half.
Cadwell jump-started the Fishermen with 8-straight points on excellent board work and a steal and full-court drive for a lay-in, which knotted the score at 28-28, four minutes into the second half. After two more ties, Inserra, who had only scored one field goal the first half, connected on an old-fashioned three-point play to put Ilwaco up 35-32 with 1:48 to play in the third quarter.
Inserra's 19 second-half points and the Fishermen's stellar free throw shooting kept them ahead from that point on, although the Wildcats did close to within 39-37 to end the third period.
Cadwell grabbed 5 rebounds in the final quarter and passed for 2 assists, while Inserra added 10 points in the final period.
The most exciting play of the frame may have been when Padgett stole the ball and threw a behind the back pass to Inserra who, catching the basketball in full stride, dropped in a flying lay-up to cap a 17-8 run. Ilwaco led by as many as 11 in the final going, leaving no doubt they would survive to play another day.
Cadwell was super, scoring 14 points and wrestling for 12 rebounds, while distributing the ball for 7 assists and adding 3 steals for good measure. Inserra had 5 rebounds to go with his game-high 21 points and Williams scored 10, with 6 boards, 5 steals and 3 assists. Padgett knocked in 9 points and also took the ball away from LaCenter on three occasions. Tony Crete scored 4 points and nabbed 4 rebounds. Ryan Gray had 2 scores and 2 boards, and Rocky Mirelez contributed a pair of steals.
The Fishermen shot 59 percent from the field in the second half and ended up with a 50 percent success rate from the floor, making 21 of 42 tries. Included in that total was a dismal 1 of 10 effort from beyond the three-point line. Ilwaco hit on 17 of 25 free throws for 68 percent and fouled 15 times.
Coach Blair explained the strategy changes he made at intermission by saying, "We spread the floor more on offense so we could cut to the basket and not settle for shooting so many three's. We turned up the defensive pressure on Roach who had the hot hand for them."
LaCenter sank as many field goals as Ilwaco, converting 21 of 48 tries for 44 percent and were 6 of 16 from the line for 38 percent while being called for 16 fouls, 9 of which occurred in the final minutes when they were attempting to catch the Fishermen. All 10 of the Wildcats' misses from the charity stripe came in the fourth quarter.
Ilwaco out-rebounded LaCenter 30-27 and both teams had a miniscule 13 turnovers. Wildcat Derek Baker also had a "double-double," with 13 points and 14 boards. Roach had but one free throw the second half to end with 15 points for the losers.
Ilwaco's crucial victory ended a three-game skid and upped their season mark to 15-7. The Fishermen defeated LaCenter for the third time this year.
In other action, Hoquiam dumped Elma 44-22 and Woodland upset Ridgefield for the second time this season 50-46 to punch their tickets to the state tournament in the Yakima Sun Dome March 10 through March 14. Elma was to play Forks, which eliminated Tenino 59-46 for another state tourney invitation, Friday. Hoquiam put its 22-game winning streak on the line Saturday at Battle Ground for the District IV championship against upstart Woodland. Ilwaco faced league-rival Ridgefield Friday, see related story.
LaCenter 10 16 11 13 - 50
Ilwaco 11 9 19 21 - 60
LaCenter: Roach 15, Baker 13, Aske 13, Teel 4, Williamson 3, Calnan 2
Ilwaco: Inserra 21, Cadwell 14, Mirelez, Williams 10, Padgett 9, Gray 2, Crete 4