Not many teams play defense like the Mountlake Terrace Hawks.
The Hawks used that defense to squeak out a 38-36 win over Fairfax from Los Angeles, Calif., at the King Showcase on Monday.
"Sometimes you just have to grind," Mountlake Terrace coach Nalin Sood said. "You just have to grind and grind and grind. I think the things the kids really focused on today before the game, one thing was not get caught in time travel of a bad turnover. You know, they (the Lions) make some great plays with some of their dunks and they are a great talent. You just have to live with it. You can get caught in time travel and have four or five more bad plays or you stop it and you try to make something positive on the other end happen."
Both teams struggled to put the ball in the basket offensively, Fairfax shot 31.4 percent (16-for-51) for the game and Mountlake Terrace shot 30.6 percent (15-for-49). With the teams nearly equal in how many field goals and how many free throws they made, the difference was the Hawks made four 3-point shots to the Lions one. That number could have been much higher for the Hawks -- they missed several wide-open looks -- especially in the first half.
"I thought we were getting good looks and they just weren't going down," Sood said. "Sometimes you just have to forget who you are going against. It's the same shot you got in practice. We got good looks and we just weren't making them. In the second half I thought maybe we made some key baskets."
The Hawks missed a lot of open shots, but the poor shooting for Fairfax seemed to be more of a product of the Hawks' efforts on the defensive end, which shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Sood has made it no secret that his team hangs its hat on defense.
"Really what that game came down to, I thought we did a good job defensively," Sood said. "They made some good plays. I will go back and watch the tape, but I can't sit here and say it's because of our terrible defense. I've got to say that they are a pretty good basketball team and they made some pretty good plays and things worked out for us at the end."
The game couldn't have gotten much closer. The largest lead was held by Mountlake Terrace at 16-10, but the Hawks did have the luxury of having the lead the majority of the time. Fairfax had the lead just twice in the entire contest and the game was tied only once after the first basket of the game.
Despite playing from behind most of the time, the Lions still had a chance to send the game to overtime or win in the final seconds. Trailing 36-31 with 39.2 seconds left in the game, Fairfax forward Chaunce Hill rebounded and dunked a missed layup by guard Jonathan Brown to cut the Terrace lead to three.
Hill's dunk was one of four he had during the game, one came from a baseline drive and the other three were tip dunks off of missed shots. Hill was the most athletic of a very athletic Fairfax team, but the Hawks weren't intimidated.
"I wasn't that intimidated, but I was sitting in my shoes and a suit on the sideline," Sood said. "When you go play against it, I don't think it's intimidating, but it's different. You don't see that very often so it changes some of the things you do as a player, there is no doubt about it. For me to say, 'no it doesn't,' would be lying to you."
The Lions fouled Hawks' post Loren Lacasse with 22 seconds to play and he stepped to the line for a one-and-one and calmly sank both free throws, giving the Hawks some breathing room.
"It's funny that Loren makes them because he messes up all the scoring drills in practice because he is such a good shooter," Sood said. "He is such a good shooter. That kid has more green marks and green means you won than anybody."
But Lacasse's free throws didn't close the door on Fairfax. After a timeout the Lions ran a play that resulted in a wide open straight away 3-pointer for Brown. He hit the shot, the only Fairfax 3-pointer of the game and the Lions quickly called another timeout with 10 seconds to play. After the timeout the Lions immediately fouled Blake Fernandez, who went to the line for another one-and-one. This time, Fernandez missed the front end and the Lions had one shot to either tie or win the game. Fernandez got back on defense and covered Brown on the final possession. Brown tried to get a look at a three, but Fernandez wouldn't let him get it off. Brown stepped in and attempted an off-balance runner that came up short as time expired.
"The big thing with that kid was can we just level him out," Sood said of Brown. "He was getting to the basket on Jesse (Zerom) a couple of times. We put Blake on him. He is a little longer and can just keep him out of the paint and Blake forced him into a tough shot."
Greg Bowman and Fernandez led the Hawks with 11 points apiece. Bowman also added 11 rebounds. Hill led Fairfax with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
At ShoWare Center
Fairfax (Cal.) 8 6 12 10 -- 36
Mountlake Terrace 11 5 11 11 -- 38
Fairfax--Olisaemeka Nwachie 2, Jonathan Brown 8, Sage Woodruff 8, Lindsey Drew 0, Tommy Mitchell 0, Reggie Theus Jr. 4, Pierson Ro 2, Chaunce Hill 12. Mountlake Terrace--Jesse Zerom 2, Blake Fernandez 11, Michael Lotz 0, Marquis Armstead 8, Greg Bowman 11, LeTrae Sarden 0, Loren Lacasse 6. 3-point goals--Brown 1, Armstead 1, Bowman 2, Fernandez 1. Records--Fairfax 13-8 overall. Mountlake Terrace 14-2.
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