"Survive and advance" is Oak Harbor High School boys basketball coach Mike Washington's mantra for the playoff season.
And the Wildcats did just that, going into survival mode to scratch out a 47-46 win over visiting Shorecrest in a district loser-out game Wednesday, Feb. 13.
The win put Oak Harbor (13-10) in a winner-to-regional-loser-out game with Glacier Peak (18-5) at 6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16, at Jackson High School in Everett. Should Oak Harbor win, it will be the first time since 1989 the Wildcats advanced beyond district.
Glacier Peak reached the game with a 56-54 win that eliminated Shorewood Wednesday.
Beating Glacier Peak will be a tall order for Oak Harbor. The Grizzlies have been ranked in the state's top-10 all season and defeated Oak Harbor 66-38 earlier this season.
Glacier Peak is paced by three of Wesco's top nine scorers: 6-6 Zach Peterson, 17.2 points per game; 6-3 Ramsey Rosales, 13.3; and 6-0 Dreu Vader, 13.
In the first meeting, Rosales drilled five three-pointers and scored 18 points, Peterson scored 17 points and pulled down 10 rebounds and Vader hit seven of 10 shots on the way to scoring 17 points.
Against Shorecrest (11-12), Oak Harbor rocketed to an early lead, then sputtered but stayed aloft just long enough to ground the Scots.
Dayne Herron coolly swished two free throws with 14.8 seconds remaining in the game to put Oak Harbor up 47-43 and help the 'Cats pull out the win.
Behind seven points by Drew Washington, the Wildcats led 13-2 midway through the first period and 15-10 at the end of the quarter.
Herron hit a free throw to start the second quarter to give Oak Harbor what would be its biggest lead, 16-10, for the remainder of the game. The Scots tied it twice, 20-20 and 30-30, but never led until hitting the first hoop of the fourth quarter. Neither team led my more than two in the final period until Herron's closing free throws.
Shorecrest's Connor Hyppa came off the bench to hit a trio of treys in the second quarter that helped close the early Oak Harbor gap.
Thanks to hoops by Dyllan Harris and Herron and a pair of free throws by JoJo Webster, Oak Harbor finished the half on an 8-3 run to lead 28-23.
The Scots started quickly in the second half, knotting the game at 30 with 4:45 left in the quarter. It was a see-saw battle from there.
Shorecrest's Zach Lawson drained a three for his only points of the game to begin the fourth quarter and finally give the Scots a lead, 35-34.
A free throw and a three-point play by Chris Hailer, then a hoop and assist (to Herron) from Gabe Groenig helped Oak Harbor keep pace.
Drew Washington, who hadn't scored since the first quarter, fired in a three to put the Wildcats in the lead for good, 45-43, with 2:22 left.
A series of misses by both teams set up Herron's clutch free throws.
Sam Franks sank a meaningless three for Shorecrest at the buzzer to finish the scoring.
Oak Harbor had balanced scoring: Washington, Webster and Hailer each scored 10 points and Herron had nine.
Groenig and Harris had four each.
Shorecrest shot only 32.7 percent (17-for-52) but kept itself in the game by dominating the boards, out rebounding Oak Harbor 37-26, including 16-4 at the offensive end.
The Wildcats had one more turnover than the Scots (17-16), but used a strong transition game to outscore Shorecrest 19-7 off those miscues.
Hyppa played less than half the game but led Shorecrest with 13 points. Alex Horning scored 11 points and collected 10 rebounds.
Coach Washington said, "With our limited bench the kids got tired, but they fought through the adversity."
He added that the support of the crowd and band were appreciated and helped his team secure the win.
The Oak Harbor game with Glacier Peak Saturday at Jackson will be followed by the district title game between Mountlake Terrace and Stanwood.