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Originally published March 2, 2012 at 9:22 PM | Page modified March 2, 2012 at 9:38 PM

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Rainier Beach rallies to beat University, 61-53 | 3A Boys Semifinals

The third-ranked Vikings erased a six-point deficit to overtake eighth-ranked University of Spokane and advance to Saturday's Class 3A championship game against Seattle Prep.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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TACOMA — Mike Bethea called a timeout.

After the Rainier Beach coach watched his star player, Anrio Adams, pick up his fourth foul 22 seconds into the third quarter, he knew he needed to gather his young team.

"We can be the type of team that sits there and makes excuses, or we can find a way to win this thing," Bethea told his players. "We've been in this position before — with or without Rio."

He sent the Vikings back on the floor. They responded. They erased a six-point deficit. They rallied for a 61-53 victory over eighth-ranked University.

"We've grown up a lot in a year," said Bethea, his voice cracking with emotion. "For these guys to grow up and be receptive to everything that we've done and the buy-in, I can't say enough about this team."

No. 3 Rainier Beach (26-3) will play Metro League rival Seattle Prep for the 3A state title at 7 p.m. Saturday.

"They really stepped up their defensive intensity," Titans junior Brett Bailey said. "We played hard, yet came up short. They really stopped our momentum, and our execution on offense wasn't the same."

It wasn't one player who brought Beach back. Elijah Foster pulled down seven rebounds. Will Dorsey had 16 points and six rebounds.

"I'm thinking, we've got to do it for him," said Dorsey, when asked about what went through his mind after Adams picked up his fourth foul. "We've got to do it for him. He's been doing it this long. Our leader was down."

Djuan Piper battled early foul trouble and chipped in eight points.

"We're back," said Piper, a junior, talking about getting back to the 3A title game for the first time since the Vikings won it all in 2008.

It didn't stop there. KeiWuan Miller brought energy and leadership, scraping together five points and five rebounds. Bethea even gave seven big minutes to Phillip Maxie. He contributed.

"That's the beauty of this team," Bethea said. "A guy who hasn't played all tournament, hasn't played but maybe 20 minutes all season, Phillip Maxie, can come in and light the fire. A guy like KeiWuan Miller, whose minutes are sporadic, all of a sudden, he's making big play after big play."

While his teammates worked their way back into the game, Adams stood at the end of the bench cheering them on.

"I can't say enough about that kid," Bethea said. "He's grown so much, matured so much."

Then, with 5:39 left in the game, Adams checked back in. He scored seven of his 11 points down the stretch to help finish what his teammates started.

"They've got a lot of heart," Adams said. "They've got a lot of heart."

Mason Kelley: 206-464-8277 or mkelley@seattletimes.com

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