SPOKANE – Naselle trailed by five in the final minute but came back for a 57-50 overtime victory over the Muckleshoot Tribal Kings Thursday to advance to State semifinals.

Warren Wirkkala spun away from his defender on the baseline, got fouled and sank a pair of free throws and Corey Gregory, dominant on both ends of the court in the fourth quarter, forced an over-and-back at half-court with 38.1 seconds left. Gregory then nailed a three-pointer with 25.5 seconds to go. Muckleshoot missed just before the buzzer, the put-back went in too late and the game went to overtime.

In the extra period Gregory sank the dagger three for a 54-49 lead with about a minute and a half remaining, giving him 24 points for the game. Gregory then drew a charge from Darius Nichols with 30.4 seconds left to seal the deal.

Naselle trailed 39-30 early in the fourth quarter. With the height advantage, the Kings were dominating on the offensive boards and getting some blocks from behind to erase what would normally be easy baskets for Naselle. Lamont Nichols was getting open inside against the Comet zone one his way to a 24-piont night.

But Gregory brought the team back in the fourth quarter. He hit a three to cut the lead to six, then followed with an interception on the back end of a half-court press, and took another three. He missed; the comeback wouldn’t happen all at once, but the game was turning. Gregory dribbled into the lane, stopped short of the defenders and hit a jumper to cut the lead back to six, and Warren Wirkkala cut it to 41-38 with a three-pointer.

With the Comets back down by six, Gregory forced a miss by Nichols in close on a press-break and hit a layup the other way, a crucial four-point swing. Gregory cut the lead to 44-42 halfway through the quarter, bumping his way into an open shot in the lane and knocking it down.

With Muckleshoot’s lead back to 47-42 in the final minute, Nichols gave Naselle life by missing the front end at the free throw line. That set up the Comets’ tying flurry, with Wirkkala getting to the line and Gregory knocking down his trey to force overtime.

Kolby Glenn and Ethan Lindstrom kept momentum going Naselle’s way, slicing to the basket to help Naselle take a lead early in the OT. Gregory’s last three-pointer made it a five-point game with about 1:30 to go. Lindstrom and Gregory both took charges in the final stages to snuff out the Kings’ hopes. With Muckleshoot still trailing by five inside of thirty seconds, Glenn poked a pass out of another half-court trap; the ball trickled to Lindstrom, who punctuated the win with a layup.

The Comets continued showing the scoring depth that makes them a hard team to shut down for 32 minutes, a crucial advantage in March. While Ethan Lindstrom was named league MVP and regularly put up 25-plus-point performances over the season’s final weeks, Kolby Glenn reminded everyone he could take over a game at Regionals, when he put up 27 points in an incredible second half. Friday, Glenn’s shooting was off and Lindstrom had a solid 16-point night. But it was Gregory who transformed the game with 10 fourth quarter points. Wirkkala, usually a fourth or fifth scoring option, added five in the period.

Naselle will take on Ryan Moffet's unbeaten Odessa Tigers Friday, March 6 at 3:45 p.m. The Tigers survived against 10-seed Almira-Coulee-Hartline Thursday morning, winning 41-38. Moffet, a dangerous long-range shooter, averages 31.8 points per game.

Aaron Mead is a sports writer for the Chinook Observer. Contact him at 360-642-8181 or aaroncmead@gmail.com.

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