The district basketball tournament is a new season of sorts. Each team has the same chance of winning, and what teams did or didn’t do in the regular season doesn’t matter any more. Throughout the season, the Elma High School boys basketball team has struggled to make comebacks when they get behind.
In the first game of the District 4 tournament on Friday, Elma proved it is a new season with a 57-52 win over La Center.
Elma controlled much of the momentum early, but La Center hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to go up by one at halftime. The Eagles grabbed the lead back when senior guard Ray Stark hit back-to-back 3-pointers of his own to take a 41-35 lead at the end of the third quarter. Still, Elma fell behind again and trailed by three with just over five minutes to go in the game. From there, the Eagles earned the victory from the free-throw line. Elma began to attack the basket and hit 10 of its final 14 free throws to lift the squad over La Center.
“We had a couple of bad decisions, but these guys really showed resiliency tonight,” coach Marvin Prince said. “It is something that we have seen in spurts this season, and I will take it right now. That was one resilient effort after another down the stretch. They did everything that we asked, and I’m just so proud of them.”
Senior Chance Bremer helped fuel the Eagle comeback with 11 points and 14 rebounds, but Elma was led on offense by 23 points from senior Ryan Collin. Collin made four of Elma’s seven 3-pointers on the night.
“He (Collin) can score when he gets in a good rhythm and he was in a good rhythm tonight,” Prince said. “He was strong with the ball and hit a couple of huge 3-pointers.”
The Eagles celebrated the win with hugs as they came off the floor and hollers in the locker room, but they are still a win away from a spot in the state tournament. Elma faced Trico No. 5 seed Toledo, which upset Trico No. 1 Kalama, 58-47, on Tuesday. Even with some work to do before they could celebrate a state berth, Prince wanted to take time to enjoy a hard fought win.
“I don’t know what is more exciting to have that win or to walk in and see the jubilation of the kids,” Prince said. “I told them after the game ‘We have had our downs and it is our turn to have some fun.’”