TACOMA – Newport coach Steve Haizlip looked down at the court and wiped his eyes.
Moments before, his team’s season ended with a 56-39 win Saturday against No. 4 Central Valley in the fourth-place game of the Class 4A state tournament. But it wasn’t disappointment that hit Haizlip, who’s in his fourth year at Newport.
It was the thought of losing his seniors, many of whom he coached on Newport’s youth teams. Newport (19-10) finished sixth.
“The composure they had has just been amazing,” Haizlip said. “I’m so proud of the seniors to get to experience this. It’s just been an amazing, amazing run, and it shows the character of these guys.”
Newport lost to Central Valley because the Knights missed too many layups and turned the ball over too many times (17 in all).
Central Valley (24-3) pulled away after leading by just three at halftime behind a 19-of-22 effort at the free-throw line.
“When you play a good team like that, you can’t do that,” Haizlip said.
Will Ferris hit 1 of 2 free throws for Newport that cut Central Valley’s lead to five with two minutes left in the third quarter. But the Bears answered with a 10-1 run.
Ferris led Newport with 16 points and Isaac Dotson added 13 points and nine rebounds in his final game before heading to WSU on a football scholarship.
Yet, in some ways, Newport’s biggest accomplishment was simply making the state tournament. Newport lost four straight games at the end of the season and stood at just 13-8. At different times this year, Newport played without key contributors Dotson, Riley Herring and Cal Throckmorton because of injury.
But the Knights won five consecutive loser-out games to reach the state tournament.
“I knew we were going to be OK,” Haizlip said. “I wasn’t concerned with these guys because I knew they could do it. I never had any doubt one bit.”