SNOHOMISH — Jesse Zerom knows he flies under the radar. But in Mountlake Terrace’s 3A state regional game, he was front and center.
Zerom scored 14 second-quarter points for the Hawks, jumpstarting the Terrace offense that outscored Foss 26-14 in the period and helping lead Mountlake Terrace to a 63-53 victory over Foss on Saturday night at Glacier Peak High School.
“Usually teams scout us they forget about me,” Zerom said. “? I was just feeling it. I just try to do what I have to do.”
The senior guard, who averages about five points a game, finished with 15. While he wasn’t the Hawks’ leading scorer, he provided a spark for the Mountlake Terrace offense and helped open up other shooters when the Foss defense came out to guard him.
Zerom’s emergence helped alter the Hawks’ entire gameplan. Mountlake Terrace head coach Nalin Sood wanted his team pounding the ball into the paint early, but that strategy changed when Zerom, Marquis Armstead and post Greg Bowman got hot on outside and mid-range shots.
“Here’s how smart I am as a coach, (I said) let’s really do a great job of getting the ball in the paint and beat them in the paint,” Sood said. “? You can’t tell kids, if they’re open, not to shoot it.”
During Sood’s postgame interview, Zerom hustled to the locker room and almost entered the Foss one by mistake. Sood took the moment to find a rare criticism of Zerom’s performance.
“He did a good job. That’s the only thing he messed up on tonight,” Sood said with a laugh.
Zerom got plenty of help from his teammates as Mountlake Terrace turned in a very balanced scoring effort. Armstead finished with 18 points — 12 of which came on 3-pointers — and Bowman scored 15 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Blake Fernandez added 11 points for the Hawks.
“The guys just found their rhythm,” Sood said. “The guys got in a rhythm and made their shots.”
Mountlake Terrace (21-3 overall) caught a huge break just one minute into the game. Foss star senior Dezmyn Trent, who averages 28 points per game, went to the bench and did not return. Trent injured his hamstring in practice on Friday and tried to play anyway, but couldn’t stay on the court.
Sood felt bad for the guard/wing who was unable to compete in the final high school game of his career.
“I know he’s disappointed, but I told him after the game his career’s not over,” Sood said. “We’re going to hear about him. I wish he would have played. You want to go beat the best and he’s one of the best players. They’re a formidable team without him and with him, obviously, they’d be even better.”
Even without Trent, Foss (16-6) pushed Mountlake Terrace until the end. Jericho Ballard — who finished with 16 points — scored the final 10 points of the third quarter to offset 10 points by Bowman in the period.
In the fourth quarter, it was Tamariye Nelson doing most of the damage for Foss. Nelson, who finished with 18 points, scored seven and helped get Foss to within six points.
But the Hawks shut the door, thanks in large part to seven points on free throws in the closing minutes, and were able to hang on and clinch a return to the Tacoma Dome for the second consecutive year.
Last season, Mountlake Terrace lost its first two games in Tacoma, to eventual state champion Rainier Beach and fourth place Lake Washington. This year, the Hawks hope to bring something home with them.
“Last year was disappointing at the end that we didn’t medal, or get a trophy. But I was thinking this week there are a lot of teams that are happy just to get down there,” Sood said. “So we’re very fortunate, and you never take it for granted to go to Tacoma and go play against the best eight. But once we get down there we want to see what we can do to be better than last year.”
Zerom, too, is eager to return to the Tacoma Dome.
“You try to forget (last year) but you really can’t. You have to use it as motivation,” Zerom said. “I think we’re better. We’ll go down there and make some noise.”
At Glacier Peak H.S.
Mountlake Terrace 7 26 14 16 — 63
Foss 10 14 16 13 — 53
Mountlake Terrace–Marquis Armstead 18, Greg Bowman 15, Blake Fernandez 11, Loren Lacasse 4, Michael Lotz 0, LeTrae Sarden 0, Jesse Zerom 15. Foss–Jaron Artis 0, Jericho Ballard 16, Michel Cocke’ 0, Noah Hunthausen 3, LaQuante McHenry 0, Olashawan Miller 12, Tamariye Nelson 18, Chris Reynolds 4, Dezmyn Trent 0. 3-point goals–Zerom 3, Armstead 4, Bowman 1, Nelson 2, Ballard 2. Records–Mountlake Terrace 21-3 overall. Foss 16-6.