YAKIMA – It was a finish fit for royalty.
King’s Way Christian beat King’s 43-42 to reach its first 1A boys basketball state championship game on Friday at the SunDome.
With both teams named the Knights, the semifinal game called for a hero.
That hero was Khalfani Cason.
One day after suffering a dislocated shoulder, Khalfani Cason made a driving lay-in with 4.6 seconds left for the winning basket.
Seattle-based King’s, which missed two free throws prior to Cason’s basket, had a contested lay-in partially blocked at the buzzer.
In the semifinals for the second time in four years, No. 11 King’s Way (19-8) is headed to its first state championship game at 5 p.m. Saturday against No. 3 Zillah.
Cason scored 20 points after playing less than one quarter in Thursday’s quarterfinal win over Seattle Academy.
After the game, Cason broke down in tears when asked about his game-winner.
After composing himself a minute later, the senior said it came down to desire.
“Nobody has more heart than us,” Cason said, pounding his chest.
Wearing a shoulder brace and unable to lift his elbow above his shoulder, Cason was unsure Friday morning if he could play.
“I asked God for one more chance for my shoulder,” he said. “I was just thinking about how I can get back and support my team. This is bigger than me.”
Cason saw a trainer who told him he wouldn’t damage his shoulder further if he played. It came down to whether he could handle the pain.
“I think all the adrenaline overcame the pain,” he said.
King’s has five players between 6-foot-4 and 6-foot-7 while King’s Way’s tallest is 6-foot-2.
“I’ve joked with some coaches, if you know of a 6-foot and under league, we could be pretty good,” King’s Way coach Daven Harmeling said. “We had to play this game on our terms. We had to speed them up and we had to be aggressive. I don’t know if I’d want a seven-game series with them, but it worked for one night.”
King’s Way was smaller, but more scrappy. The Knights forced quick shots and turnovers by a team that had beaten No. 1 Lynden Christian 73-50 the prior night.
In the first half, No. 10 King’s made just one of 22 shots from the field – Nine of its 11 first-half points came from the foul line. King’s Way forced 12 turnovers, including six steals.
But King’s got hot in the second half, outscoring King’s Way 21-12 in the third quarter. Six-foot-6 freshman Tyler Lindhardt scored 13 of his 22 points in the third.
King’s took its first lead since the first quarter at 39-37 with 2:42 to play.
But Bryce Dodge and Bryson Metz scored key baskets for King’s Way in the final two minutes, setting the stage for Cason’s heroics.
“I told the guys after the game, regardless of whether our shot went in or their shot went in, I loved them,” Harmeling said. “The outcome wouldn’t change how I feel about them. But to be honest, right now my head is kind of spinning because we’re such underdogs in this.”
Now King’s Way is hoping to be an underdog that ends up on the state throne.
“It was a hard-fought game,” said Bryson Metz, who scored 10 points. “It game down to who wanted it more in the fourth quarter.”