Both the Mountlake Terrace Hawks and the Eastside Catholic Crusaders came into their WIAA 3A Boys State Tournament regional-round matchup knowing that trips to the Tacoma Dome later in the tourney were guaranteed for each. But the two teams played as if their postseasons hinged on the result of Saturday’s matchup.
In an intense game that featured 11 lead changes, it was the Crusaders that emerged with a 54-52 victory over the Hawks before a big crowd at Bellevue College.
For Mountlake Terrace, the loss was just the second in their past 16 games; but this one, against the No. 3-seeded team in the state tournament, hurt a little more.
“I just told the guys it’s going to sting,” Terrace Coach Nalin Sood said of his postgame locker room talk with his squad. “It stings more when it’s this (two-point loss) compared to 20 points you lose by and you lose a tough basketball game versus a good team.”
The pain of the loss was compounded by the missed opportunity the Hawks had to either win the game or send it to overtime in the final seconds. Terrace trailed 54-44 with 3:38 remaining in the game but pulled to within two points, 54-52, on a pair of Jaxon Dubiel free throws that closed out an 8-0 run with 34.8 seconds to go. Dubiel then dramatically blocked a layin attempt by the Crusaders Nate Krohn with 13.3 seconds left to keep the EC lead to two points.
Following a number of successive timeouts, a scramble for a loose ball and a knock away of an inbound pass, Terrace had possession of the ball with 5.4 seconds to go. But the Hawks never got a potential game-tying or winning shot away as Talan Zenk had the ball poked away by EC’s Alex Elston as time expired.
Sood didn’t blame the loss on the Hawk’s failed final possession, instead claiming it was “little things” throughout the game that added up to the defeat.
“In a game like that against a good team, if you do certain things right you’re going to give yourself an opportunity. And they capitalized on little things and we didn’t. And that’s the difference in the locker rooms right now,” Sood said following the loss.
“We didn’t capitalize on the little things,” he continued. “Whether that little thing is in the last minute or that little thing is the last minute of the third quarter or the first two minutes of the fourth quarter.”
“To hold (Eastside Catholic) to 54 (points) — I think they’re averaging 62 (points) in a tough league — that should give you a chance, that should give you an opportunity to be successful,” Sood added. “And we had an opportunity and we just didn’t get it tonight.”
Sood cited a lack of execution by the Hawk offense at times — the team had 20 turnovers in the game — and a couple lapses in team defense as contributing factors in Saturday’s defeat.
“Now I know from this game there’s some defensive things we’ve got to get better at, maybe going back to our traditional defense on some things, against pressure and then execution,” Sood said. “Execution caught up with us a little bit today but credit to (Eastside Catholic) — they took us out of some things.“
Despite the list of “little things” that added up to a tough loss, Sood wasn’t entirely down on his team’s performance on Saturday.
“Overall it’s a heck of a high school basketball game against a really good team — I don’t think our guys are too bad either,” he said. “We checked off a lot of things except getting the victory tonight.”
The Crusaders’ big 6-10 junior, Jacob Cofie — considered by some as the best prep player in the state — led all scorers with 22 points in the game, but was held to just two points in the fourth quarter. It was Terrace’s Zaveon Jones who was given the assignment to slow down EC’s top scorer for most of the game. Sood quoted Vince Lombardi when summarizing Jones’ performance on Saturday.
“I was listening to something today about the greatest competitors like the greatest competitive moments — that sums up Zaveon,” Sood said. “He’s just a great competitor and this is one of the greatest competitive environments … But that’s true for Zaveon; he’s just an unbelievable competitor. And you saw it tonight. With Zaveon, sometimes when the lights are the brightest, he steps up the most.”
In addition to his defensive work, Jones also led the Hawks in scoring with 19 points. Dubiel contributed 16 points in the loss.
For the Crusaders, in addition to Cofie’s 22 points, Kayden Greene scored 14 points, 12 in the second half on four 3-pointers. Ishe Kanhukamwe tallied 12 points for EC.
The next state tournament action for the No. 6-seeded Mountlake Terrace Hawks will be at the Tacoma Dome Wednesday, March 1, when they face the No. 14-seeded North Thurston Rams in a round-of-12, loser-out contest. Tipoff is slated for 3:45 p.m.
To view the entire WIAA 3A Boys State Basketball Tournament bracket, click www.wpanetwork.com/wiaa/brackets/tournament.php?act=view&tournament_id=3795.
Prep Boys Basketball: Mountlake Terrace vs. Eastside Catholic (WIAA 3A Boys State Basketball Tournament regional-round game)
Mountlake Terrace 14 13 13 12 – 52
Eastside Catholic 14 11 17 12 – 54
Mountlake Terrace individual scoring: Zaveon Jones 19, Jaxon Dubiel 16, Svayjeet Singh 9, Logan Tews 3, Talan Zenk 3, Chris Meegan 2, Rayshaun Connor, Andrew Delgadillo
Eastside Catholic individual scoring: Jacob Cofie 22, Kayden Greene 14, Ishe Kanhukanmwe 12, Nate Krohn 2, Alex Elston 2, Kodi Greene 2, Kayden Lamebull-Ingram, Luke Johnson
Records: Mountlake Terrace 18-6 overall; Eastside Catholic 19-8 overall
Mountlake Terrace next game: versus North Thurston; Wednesday, March 1; 3:45 p.m. at the Tacoma Dome (WIAA 3A Boys State Basketball Tournament round-of-12, loser-out game)
— By Doug Petrowski
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