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The LEAP Student Blog

Keithen Shepard | Union HS: "Road to the Dome"

Author: Keithen Shephard
Grade: Junior
School: Union High School
Mascot: Titans
League: Greater St. Helens League
Classification: 4A

"Road to the Dome"

For professional players, it’s the NBA Finals. For college players, it’s the Final Four.  For Washington 4A basketball players, it’s the Dome.  The State Tournament is the epitome of basketball’s biggest stage for high school players and what better place to play it in than the Tacoma Dome. 

Every year, all the high schools statewide start out with the same chance of reaching this pinnacle.  The cream of the crop soon get sorted out however, as only 8 are able to play under the lights of the Dome.  This year, as well as last, I was fortunate enough to be on a team that made another consecutive trip to Tacoma to play for the trophy.  If any team could win the tournament, the Titans had as good a shot as any.

It started out with a tough gauntlet of non-league games consisting of tournaments in both Spokane and San Diego, California against some of the top teams from Washington, Oregon, California, and even Kentucky.  Then it was onto league, as we rolled to a 12-0 record and a two straight league and district titles.  The crowds were wild and we came to play each game, knocking down threes and slamming in a few dunks as well.  In our first playoff game we were clicking on all cylinders, jumping out to a large lead over a very good team in Bothell.  Never looking back, we knew it was only one more game until we got to the Dome.

And then came the play-in game.  Winner to Tacoma, loser sent home in the elimination game.  Union vs. Gonzaga Prep.  The atmosphere was unlike any high school game I have ever been a part of, as people came from all of Southwest Washington to see this highly anticipated matchup.  As usual, our fans filled the section and even overflowed a little into the parents’ section, everyone decked out in all red.  Titan Nation was ready to go. 

The game was intense, both teams battling and clawing, as we managed to maintain a 10 point lead over Prep entering the 4th quarter.  Then it took a turn for the worse, as the Bullpups went on a quick run led by the state player of the year to cut their deficit to 3 points.  The crowd stood on their feet as the game ticked down its final seconds…30 left…Prep advanced the ball into the half court and set up a play.  Before I knew what had happened they had nailed a three pointer from 23 feet, tying the game with 15 seconds left! 

Our goal for the season, everything we had worked for in the offseason, our seniors’ careers, all of it was on the line if we didn’t make a play.  Without taking a timeout Cameron Cranston dribbled up the court.  Waiting until 8 seconds to initiate the play, except it broke down, and all hope seemed lost.  Except it wasn’t.  Cameron flew back into the scene, receiving a perfect pass from Denis Kirichinko and launching a 3 pointer with 3 seconds left. 

Time seemed to freeze.  The whole gym sucked in its breathe as the final shot flew in its arc, carrying the fate of the game with it.  And then it was over, as the ball went in, and the entire student section dog piled our team.  Without a doubt this was the single greatest memory I will likely carry through my high school career, and it helped seal the Union Titans a trip to the state tournament.  Who will persevere in the face of any challenge? Titans will.


April 2016

4/19/2016 Keithen Shepard | Union HS: "Road to the Dome"
4/11/2016 Sabrina Bozich | Hanford HS: "The Falcon Way"

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