Story and photos by Doug Petrowski
Coach Nalin Sood said he wanted to challenge his team with some strong competition this season. The Mountlake Terrace Hawks got that challenge Saturday night as they faced the second-ranked 3A team in the state, Lincoln of Tacoma. What they walked away with was some experience, some confidence and a broken heart.
The Hawks played their best basketball of the year so far, leading by as many as 14 points, but in the end couldn’t hold off the Abes, losing 60-59. The game was part of the Les Schwab Preview, a day-long marathon of high school basketball at Highline Community College in Des Moines.
“We came down here for one thing: to step up to the challenge,” said Sood. “We knew they were going to challenge us, and they challenged us. And I thought we stepped up. The flip side of that is we didn’t take advantage of some opportunities.”
Senior Marquis Armstead led the Hawks with 27 points on 10-14 shooting, including four out of five from three-point range before fouling out with 27 seconds to go in the game. Junior Loren Lacasse hit for 14 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. Senior Michael Lotz added eight points, as did junior Greg Bowman; Jesse Zerom rounded out the Mountlake Terrace scoring with two points.
Tre’Shaun Fletcher had a big game for the Abes with 28 points and 11 rebounds; the 6-6 senior scored seven of the team’s final nine points and smothered a potential-winning shot by Hawk Jesse Zerom at the final buzzer. Lincoln’s Ahmaad Rorie added 16 points for the Abes. Fletcher, a senior, has committed to play at the University of Colorado next year, while Rorie, just a junior, has already orally committed to the University of California for 2014.
Coach Sood recognized the talent of Fletcher and Rorie, and was pleased at how his team played against them. “We went up against two Pac-12 players and I don’t think our guys shied away,” he said. “They made plays; you’ve got to give them credit.”
“He’s a versatile player,” Sood continued about Fletcher. “He’s pretty skilled around the basket. He’s pretty crafty. He does it on both ends. I don’t think he made a lot of jump shots on us. Great players step up and make plays and there’s no doubt. He’s going to a Pac-12 school for a reason. I don’t think we did a horrible job on him. I think Greg (Bowman) got a couple of his shots.
Mountlake Terrace led 59-55 with two minutes left in the game, but gave up a Fletcher field goal inside with 1:42 to go, and a short jumper by Rorie Johnson with 59 seconds left. Then, with 27 seconds remaining, Fletcher converted a free throw to give Lincoln a 60-59 lead. The Hawks had two chances to win the game in the final 10 seconds, but Zerom missed an open jumper at the top of the key, then had a short jumper blocked by Fletcher at the buzzer.
Sood was reflective after the loss. “These guys are in some pain because we didn’t win it. And they should have some pain,” he said. “Can we use that to be a great team? And when we go play people this season, can we go out there with a mindset of ‘I have seen the best, and we had some success against them?’ I hope that’s a mindset for these guys now.”
The success the Hawks had against Lincoln was mostly in the first half, as they built their early lead with hot shooting and a strong rebounding effort. Mountlake Terrace led 21-7 in the first minute of the second period after going on a 17-3 run.
Fletcher was able to slow down the Hawks’ early momentum some with a big slam with 4:35 left in the second quarter, followed by an emphatic block 16 seconds later. Still, Mountlake Terrace led at halftime 32-23.
Lincoln (3-0) was able to pick up the victory with strong second -alf shooting, hitting 53.3 percent from the field, including 2-4 from three-point range.
Mountlake Terrace (4-1) has a few days to recover from the tough loss; the Hawks’ next game is Friday, Dec. 14, at home versus Shorewood at 7:15 p.m.