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Originally published Monday, March 14, 2011 at 5:03 PM

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Gonzaga Prep's Chris Sarbaugh is Seattle Times' player of the year

Chris Sarbaugh, who will play at Gonzaga University, was the MVP of the Class 4A boys basketball state tournament, leading the Bullpups to the championship.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The buzzer sounded, but it didn't seem real. Chris Sarbaugh climbed the ladder to help cut down the net and, still, it didn't seem real. On the bus ride home, the Gonzaga Prep (Spokane) senior sat next to the Class 4A championship basketball, but again, it didn't seem real.

Then The Seattle Times' boys Player of the Year returned to Spokane, spent a week weathering a wave of celebratory pats on the back. Finally, he felt it.

"It finally sunk in that it's just a huge deal," said Sarbaugh, the Gonzaga-bound guard. "It's unbelievable."

Last season, the Bullpups entered the state tournament as title contenders before falling to top-ranked Federal Way in a classic quarterfinal matchup that ended in overtime. Then Ryan Nicholas graduated, Charlie Hopkins suffered a knee injury playing football and Gonzaga Prep entered the season with a talented team, but as a state-title longshot.

Sarbaugh, however, carried state-title aspirations. He spent much of the regular season sacrificing his scoring totals to make sure his teammates felt like key contributors, preparing them for the postseason.

"The whole season, everyone was jawing at me," Sarbaugh said. " 'You're going to GU (Gonzaga), you should be scoring more points.' I just felt like, during the season, if everyone was involved, we'd stick together more, be more unified."

He also played through a sprained left knee that felt better late in the season, but still needs time to heal completely.

"The word I use is competitive greatness," Bullpups coach Matty McIntyre said. "He did everything the coaching staff asked him to do. I feel blessed to be his coach. He didn't have to put up huge numbers to be a well-respected athlete. He would do whatever the team and coaches asked him to do. I just have a great deal of respect for a player like that."

In the state playoffs Sarbaugh almost doubled his season scoring average, raising his game to match the efforts of standouts like Kentridge's Gary Bell (Gonzaga), Garfield's Tony Wroten Jr. (Washington) and Curtis' DaVonte Lacy (Washington State).

"In the playoffs, I don't really know what happened," said Sarbaugh, the 4A tournament MVP, who averaged 21 points through four games. "I just felt like, this is it."

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

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