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Blue Devil boys tune up for postseason play

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Walla Walla High School snapped its only two-game losing streak — road loses at Kamiakin and Chiawana last Friday and Saturday, — of the season Tuesday in Senior Night Mid-Columbia Conference boys basketball action on the Blue Devils’ court.

Wa-Hi raced to a 15-1 lead over Kennewick after one quarter, and answered every Lion challenge to improve to 11-4 in MCC play with a 73-59 win.

With MCC’s leading scorer Ayoni Benavides — who averages nearly 27 points per game — on the Lions bench, Wa-Hi got seven points from Michael Cornia, held the Lions to 0-for-12 shooting from the floor, and took a 14-point lead to the second.

“They basically spotted us 14 (without Benavides),” Wa-Hi coach Adam Berg said. “We got up 14 and won by 14.”

Benavides returned in the second and hit two treys and scored eight in the quarter.

The Lions got within 12, but Diego Jaques hit two triples for the Blue Devils and scored 10 in the quarter to keep Wa-Hi comfortable with a 38-20 lead at intermission.

A Benavides 3-ball cut the Blue Devil lead to 43-34 with 4:20 left in the third.

Wa-Hi responded with a three-point play from Jacob Coram, a Jaques’ bucket, and seven from Corina to run the lead to 56-40 after three.

Benavides ended his 24-point night with a bucket with 2:14 left to cut the Wa-Hi lead to 66-56.

But the Blue Devil guards, Jaques and Dillon Wasser, slowed the tempo down, Jaques drained a 3, and Cornia finished his 33-point night with a bucket and two free throws as Wa-Hi closed out the 73-59 win.

“They got a couple of layups,” Jaques said. “Coach told us to slow down and not force the ball. We had to take care of the ball and stay calm.”

“We knew they were playing for the No. 1 3A seed and would be ready,” Berg said. “We had to bring our game, which wasn’t perfect, but we answered their challenges.

“Benavides is tough to stop,” he continued. “You lay off and he drains the 3. You move in and he drives by you or gets fouled. I’m glad I will watch him from afar (Benavides will play in the Class 3A postseason) and not have to face him again.”

Ashbeck and Josiah Wik celebrated the end of their regular-season Wa-Hi home careers, with both starting.

Ashbeck scored three before early second-half foul trouble derailed him.

Wik scored six and played a lot of minutes due to Ashbeck’s foul trouble and Brandon Smith’s ankle sprain.

Smith is expected to return Friday.

“Josiah has been a big part of this program,” Berg said. “He played big minutes for us tonight.”

Cornia’s double-double — 33 points, 14 rebounds — led the Blue Devils.

Jaques chipped in 16.

“This was a big confidence booster for us after losing two straight,” Jaques said. “We are ready to go for the playoffs.”

The Blue Devils already had the MCC Class 4A No. 1 seed clinched prior to Tuesday, and will host a Greater Spokane League opponent next Wednesday to open the GSL/MCC district playoff.

The Blue Devils close out the regular season Friday at Hermiston.

“We still have a long way to go to get where we want to be,” Berg summarized. “Our intent is to continue to get better and get ready for the playoffs.”

Blue Devils 73, Lions 59

KENNEWICK (59) — Pyu, Benavides 24, Chavez 7, Moses, Collier 14, Mayer, Mayovsky 5, Knapik 4, Childs, McElroy 5. Totals 18 12-22 59.

WALLA WALLA (73) — Ashbeck 3, Wik 6, Cornia 33, Wasser 8, Jaques 16, Watson 1, Coram 6, Nielson. Totals 24 16-23 73.

Kennewick 1 19 20 19 — 59

Wa-Hi 15 23 18 17 — 73

3-point goals — Kenn 9 (Collier 3, Benavides 3), WW 9 (Jaques 3). Total fouls — Kenn 18, WW19. Fouled out — none. Technicals — none. Rebounds — Kenn 33, Collier 7, Chavez 7), WW 44 (Cornia 14). Turnovers — Kenn 8, WW 8. Assists — Kenn 8 (Benavides 4), WW 11 Ashbeck 4).

Ken Morgan can be reached at kenmorgan@wwub.com.