EPHRATA — A No. 7 seed upsetting two teams in districts including No. 3 Ephrata High School that enjoyed a bye in the first round? That isn’t supposed to happen.

But it sure did.

The Ellensburg High School boys basketball team advanced to the semifinal with a 56-50 victory over Ephrata on Wednesday night, defying odds once again.

That’s six wins in the last eight for the Bulldogs. And two of those losses came versus two of the top teams in the state in Toppenish and Selah.

“We talked a little bit earlier about halfway through the season these guys changing their mindset, instead of wins and losses to process-driven,” Ellensburg head coach Anthony Graham said. “… They just really turned it around and really bought in and really got after it.”

No lead was larger than nine throughout the entire game, and it only lasted for a short amount of time.

But the Bulldogs wanted to make sure they finished, which they didn’t get done versus Selah in the final game of the regular season. And then it nearly occurred again in the first round game versus Grandview when they held a 13-point lead within the final minutes of the fourth quarter but waned to three.

It was Grandview’s press that threw the Bulldogs offensive out of rhythm. But that didn’t happen on Wednesday.

After a missed Cade Gibson 3, senior Ryan Ferguson grabbed the rebound and scored along with a foul to complete the 3-point play to put Ellensburg up 51-42 with 4:26 to go.

Ephrata began to press, but the Bulldogs never wavered. After Ephrata’s Lakota Lange made a bucket to cut the lead to six, the Bulldogs responded with Aiden Lewis’s 3 on the next possession.

Ephrata was sent to the foul line twice but only made 2-of-4, and then Gibson scored the dagger with an easy layup on Riley Perez’s pass from across the court to put the lead back to nine with under a minute to play.

The Tigers did drain a 3 with 26 seconds left and were able to force a turnover on the Bulldogs inbound pass. But Ephrata bricked three straight 3-point attempts.

“Felt awesome, started off pretty rough and then coach told us we can still do it,” Gibson said who finished with 14 points and four assists. “We flipped the switch and it’s just great to come back and win two postseason games.”

With Graham knowing his post players would match with Ephrata’s, Ellensburg’s game plan was to limit Ephrata’s outside shooting because when it did, it was momentum changing.

Gavin Burns hit 3 of them in the first half and his latter gave Ephrata a 16-15 lead midway through the second quarter.

But after the Bulldogs took a 23-22 lead into the half, they never trailed again and limited any Ephrata runs in the final 16 minutes.

“They’re a deadly shooting team,” Graham said. “You let them get rolling in rhythm, those 3s will start falling and there’s nothing you can do. We knew they were going to hit some 3s, but our plan was definitely to at least make them have to work for those 3s or not just catch them in rhythm.”

Ellensburg will face Selah at noon this Saturday at Central Washington University. There’s probably not another opponent Ellensburg would rather face considering it squandered a double-digit lead the last time these two teams met — and their rivaled history, of course.

“We’re a seven seed battling for a chance to go to state,” Graham said. “We got a few days to prepare for them so we’re just going to get after it and just run out there and give it our best shot.”

No. 4 Prosser defeated No. 5 East Valley (Yakima) 86-82 on Wednesday night. Prosser plays No. 1 Toppenish at 4 p.m. this Saturday at CWU. With a win, Ellensburg advances to the district championship game at 5 p.m., Feb. 22 in the Yakima SunDome. If the Bulldogs lose, they play East Valley at 5 p.m., Feb. 18 at the Yakima SunDome in a loser-out game.

Stats: Ryan Ferguson 19 points; Cade Gibson, 14; Aiden Lewis 12 points; JT Fenz 6 points.


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