By NICK SLOAN, NJSloan212@gmail.com
Entering the National Citizens Bank Invitational in Leavenworth, Kan., this week, Washington Wildcats head coach Eric King expected some dogfights this week.
He got more than he bargained for in Washington's 54-50 victory against Hogan Prep Friday night.
Two years after they put on a double-overtime classic in the tournament's championship game, Washington and Hogan Prep clashed in another battle in Leavenworth, with the Wildcats edging Hogan out after senior Deandre King made two clutch free throws in the game's final seconds.
"Our seniors stepped up late and made some huge free throws," Eric King said. "Deandre was clutch."
Deandre King finished with just eight points in the game - but his last two pushed the Wildcats into the tournament final against the winner of Leavenworth and Topeka.
Just as they did against Word of Life on Thursday, Washington jumped out to a quick start.
Four early points from James Jappa kick-started Washington off on a 12-3 run to open the game. Unlike Word of Life, however, Hogan Prep made Washington earn Friday's win.
Behind Ahmad Wainwright, Antoine Stanley and Jonathan Hawkins, the Rams clawed back to take the lead after the first quarter. Hogan Prep used a quarter-closing 8-0 run to take a 21-18 lead.
Washington, behind four points from Kameron Allen in the second quarter, regained the lead at halftime, 31-29.
Opening the third quarter, it appeared the Wildcats were on the verge of pulling away from the talented Rams squad. An Allen basket increased Washington's advantage back to seven points.
However, the Rams responded early in the fourth quarter to wipe out the lead.
Following a missed Hogan Prep shot, Hawkins soared and slammed home the put-back, bringing the house down at Leavenworth High School. The dunk was the spark Hogan Prep needed - a Wainwright basket gave the Rams its biggest lead at three points at 48-45.
In a sign that Washington's seniors are growing up, the Wildcats fought back. A Jappa basket cut the lead down to 48-47. Washington's defense held Hogan Prep to just two points the rest of the game.
Still, the Wildcats failed to grab the lead after multiple chances - until Deandre King was fouled on a lay-up attempt. King calmly knocked down the two free throws.
After the free throws, Hogan Prep was called for an offensive foul, turning the ball back over. Two Jaamie Trevillion free throws and one Kindred Williams free throw later, the Wildcats got the win.
"Hogan Prep is a juggernaut from Missouri," Eric King said. "The last time we started 2-0 in Leavenworth, we made it to the state title game. Tonight was a big win and we grew up tonight."
Jappa finished the night with 13 points; Williams and Allen had 10 points a piece, while King and Trevillion each had eight.
It was an up and down game filled with momentum turns. The game's deficit during most of the fourth quarter was at one or two points.
If Washington were to win tomorrow, the Wildcats would claim their second Leavenworth tournament title in three years, something King sees as an opportunity to make the city proud.
"We're trying hard for KCK," King said. "We want to do this for our city and represent what KCK is about."