By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
The Les Schwab invitational held at Highline Community College saw three of our local Wesco teams in action. The Lake Stevens girls earned a 65-47 victory over Kentwood in the morning, while the Jackson girls fell to No. 1 Mount Rainier 69-46 and the Mountlake Terrace boys lost a heartbreaker to No. 2 Lincoln 60-59.
I didn’t cover the Lake Stevens game in the morning, but I can tell you that the Vikings got their usual great performances out of the Pahukoa sisters, Brittney leading the way with 25 and Brooke adding 17. Kali Long and Alex Briggs also scored in double figures with 11 and 10 respectively.
Since I can’t offer much insight on that game I will talk mainly about the two games I did see. Starting with the Mountlake Terrace boys.
After the Hawks first game of the season I wrote a blog post saying how good this team still is despite losing a couple of key weapons from last season. After Saturday’s game I’m not backing off my stance one bit, in fact, Saturday’s loss to Lincoln only reaffirmed my opinion.
Lincoln came into the game as the No.2 ranked team in the state. Sure, ranking don’t always mean much, especially this early in the season, but there is no mistaking one thing, Lincoln is very good. The Abes are a team that has the talent to go into the Tacoma Dome in March and win the whole thing. Mountlake Terrace outplayed them.
The Hawks trailed only three times in the entire game, once at 2-0, once at 4-2 and again at the final margin of 60-59.
Mountlake Terrace did it with what they always do, discipline on offense and straight up man-to-man defense. The Hawks jumped out to an early, but convincing lead at 21-7 in the second quarter and the Abes needed the entire game to chip away at that lead. Marquis Armstead showed that he has the ability to put the team on his back and carry the load offensively. The senior guard made big shot after big shot, scoring 27 points on the night to help the Hawks to their lead.
The season is young, but Mountlake Terrace proved that they can play with the best teams in the state and did it without their point guard Blake Fernandez, who is still healing from a broken wrist.
The Hawks certainly proved to me that they will be there at the end of the season barring any major setbacks. I was also impressed with how they seemed to understand the gravity of the moment. The players and coaching staff were disappointed, sure, but it didn’t seem like the end of the world loss that some teams might have made it out to be. As coach Nalin Sood said after the game, “on paper, this game means nothing.”
He’s right. The game doesn’t affect the Hawks chances of making the playoffs or winning their league. It probably won’t even change the rankings because of how closely they played such a well-respected team. It does, however, send a message to themselves and the rest of the state that Mountlake Terrace isn’t to be taken lightly.
And Sood is the right man to make sure his team knows the right lessons to take from such a game. Knowing how competitive he and his kids are, I would bet on them to finish it the next time around.
That said, in a loss their has to be a few things that can be pointed out as weaknesses. One is that the Hawks struggled in the second half when the Abes ramped up their backcourt ball pressure. Sood put the blame on himself in that department and said his team has to be better when it comes to breaking the press. Again, he’s right. If and when the Hawks get to state there will be seven other teams in the Tacoma Dome that want to put pressure on the ball and they have to be prepared to handle it.
Second, the Hawks might have relied a little too much on Armstead. I don’t think this had to do with coaching or even the players. The Hawks certainly have the surrounding cast that can score. It might have just had more to do with Armstead having such a hot hand. It seemed for most of the game that he always hit the big shot when his team needed it and down the stretch, though he missed a couple that remained pretty true. But the Hawks could have used another go to scorer to step up late in the game.
Finally, the Hawks defense on Tre’Shaun Fletcher was phenomenal for most of the game, but late in the second half Fletcher was able to get penetration and easy buckets inside. That’s not to say the Hawks were letting him score, Fletcher is a great player, but they could have used a few more stops down the stretch.
When Sood and his team watch the film they should be happy with how they played, feel good about the future, focus on correcting the little things — and yes, probably will feel a little bad that they let an opportunity to beat a great team slip away.
As for Jackson, they too faced a highly ranked team. The most highly ranked team in fact in Mount Rainier. Unlike the Terrace game, this one wasn’t close. But there were bright spots for the Timberwolves as well.
They may not see a better team all season and the Rams played at a very high level. So now the Timberwolves know what they need to do to get back and place at the state tournament.
Brittany McPhee had her way with the Timberwolves defense scoring 31 points — and to a certain extent that is to be expected. She is one of the best players in the state. But the Timberwolves have to match the physicality of their opponent if they are going to compete at the state level.
Mount Rainier knows what they have. They have to avoid injuries and just stay the course. Jackson on the other hand is a work in progress. The good thing for them, they know how good they have to get and they have plenty of time to get there.