The Washougal High School boys basketball team got the opportunity to host a school from Melbourne, Australia, Monday.
St. Frances De Sales led the Panthers by as many as 15 points in the first half. Washougal turned the tables on a 36-14 swing in the second half to win 57-47. The Panthers finished off the game on a 13-0 run.
“At the end, we all pulled through and just played well together,” said Washougal senior forward Carson Adams. He soared to the hoop, scored two points, drew a foul shot and made it to give the Panthers a one-point lead with 4 minutes, 43 seconds left in the game.
Just before that, Alex Orr drove to the basket to score two points, stole the ball and scored two more to bring the Panthers all the way back from six points down at the start of the fourth quarter. A few minutes later, Orr glided to the hoop again to give Washougal a five-point cushion. Carter Murray and Moses McEwen also hit threes to put the Panthers up by 10.
“The fight was still there,” said Washougal head coach AJ LaBree. “We just kept pressing them and coming after them. Eventually, a few shots started to fall. There was a lid on our basket in the first half.”
St. Frances head coach Mark Billington thanked Washougal for being great hosts. This was their first game in the U.S. after sightseeing for a few days in San Francisco. They plan to play some teams in Portland before heading up to Spokane and Seattle, finishing in Los Angeles, and heading home after three weeks.
“We’re super happy Washougal allowed us to come here,” Billington said. “It’s a great campus. We really enjoyed our time here.”
The Panthers also taught them a lesson.
“When just got to learn from that second half. When the pressure steps up, we got to not turn the ball over as much as we did,” Billington said. “We played good in the first half, but then ran out of gas. This was our first game since coming to America. It was good.”
On Friday, Washougal knocked off King’s Way Christian 73-72 at home. Kol Mael tied the score on a 3-pointer from the corner. Troy Prince-Butterfield then made the winning foul shot with one second left on the clock.
“The free throw was nice, but it wouldn’t have happened if Kol didn’t hit that three,” Prince-Butterfield said. “You don’t win a game on one basket. It was everything leading up to it.”
Mael was kicking himself after missing five free throws in a row in the fourth quarter. He had a shot at redemption from the wing and took it without hesitation.
“I’ve never felt that way before in my life,” Mael said after the shot went in, the crowd erupted and his teammates came out to celebrate with him. “It’s definitely the best shot I’ve ever made … so far.”
LaBree appreciated the fight the Panthers showed, all the way until the final buzzer sounded.
“We say ‘brothers’ after every game, before every game and after every practice,” he said. “These guys have really bought into and believe that we can turn things around here and get some ‘W’s.'”
He also enjoyed the atmosphere of his first home game in Washougal.
“I’ve been coaching for a long time, but this felt like my first game all over again,” LaBree said. “My first game at Washougal ended on a free throw with one second left. Pretty crazy.”