Isaac Dotson could hear the jeers.
The sophomore couldn’t help but hear the Redmond student section yelling, screaming and chanting ‘choke, choke, choke’ as he stood on the free throw line, his team trailing 41-40 with just 5.8 seconds to play.
But Dotson pushed the taunts aside, calmly swished both free throws and Redmond missed a lay-in at the buzzer, giving Newport a 42-41 victory over the Mustangs in the loser-out Sea-King 4A District tournament game.
“I just did my best to clear my mind of everything and focus on those two free throws,” said Dotson, who scored Newport’s final eight points. “I just did my best to block everything out and pictured myself in practice, shooting free throws like I do every day.”
Newport (15-8) forced Redmond into a shot-clock violation with just 22.7 seconds left, giving the Knights one final possession to take back the lead in the back-and-forth affair. Senior Cole Wiper’s jumper banged off the rim, but Dotson grabbed the rebound and was fouled going back up. After the sophomore made both free throws, Redmond’s Andrew Squiers drove down the court and dished to 6-foot-6 junior Conner Floan, who couldn’t convert the lay-in as the buzzer sounded.
“It’s been quite the ride,” said first-year Knights coach Steve Haizlip, a Newport graduate. “I’m glad it could keep going.”
The Knights came out firing in the game. Newport, which split the season series with Redmond, took a quick 9-2 lead and led 17-8 after one quarter of play. Both teams struggled to score in the second quarter, an ugly eight minutes that featured more turnovers (10) than total points (eight).
“I think we turn the ball over way too much, and that’s been a problem for us in portions of the year when we struggled,” Haizlip said. “What we found in KingCo is that defense wins the game and that’s something we’ve been preaching all along…if we turn the ball over, we’ve got to get stops.”
The turnovers continued to plauge the Knights in the second half. Redmond’s Jason Harrington, who led all scorers with 19 points, hit back-to-back three-pointers early and got the Mustangs back into the game. Redmond (11-12) took the lead for the first time with 2:18 left in the third quarter on a three by Leslie Ellis. Eight of Newport’s 17 turnovers came in the the frame.
The teams traded points and turnovers in the fourth quarter, which saw Redmond take a 37-34 lead with just under four minutes to play. Dotson, who scored a game-team high 18 points, gave Newport a 39-38 lead with back-to-back buckets but Redmond took it right back on a Squiers basket following a Harrington missed three. After another Redmond bucket, Dotson drove to the basket and was fouled as he shot. The basket went in, but he missed the ensuing free throw to make it 41-40 Redmond. The Mustangs could have sealed it but instead committed the shot clock violation that set the stage for Dotson’s redeeming free throws.
“We knew what we had to do, we knew what our game plan was coming in,” Dotson said. “We just needed to settle down and play Newport basketball.”
The Knights will face Skyline on Thursday at 8:15 p.m. at Juanita in a loser-out game. Skyline beat Woodinville 57-50 on Tuesday night. Newport and Skyline split the season series this year.
The winner of Thursday’s game will play the No.3 team from Wesco in a winner-to-state, loser-out game.