MUKILTEO — After losing all of a seven-point lead to Mariner in the previous 21/2 minutes, the Kamiak boys basketball team had the final 18 seconds to figure out how to break a tie and score the game-winning points.
A layin at the buzzer by backup forward Henderson Belk did the trick nicely.
Belk came open under the basket as teammate Imaan Vicente rose for a final shot from left of the key. Seeing Belk standing alone, Vicente passed instead of shooting, allowing Belk to bank a shot off the backboard as the scoreboard clock reached 0:00.
The ball went through the basket after the final horn, but the officials ruled it had left Belk’s hand before, giving the Knights a 60-58 victory and setting off a rowdy celebration among the Kamiak players and their home fans.
“It was a great game and I’m excited for the guys,” Kamiak coach Cory West said. “(The Marauders) are tough. They’re hard-nosed. They take this personally and we do, too. It’s personal because it’s an intradistrict rivalry. And it’s a great rivalry.”
Immediately after the horn, Mariner coach Tom Jensen pleaded with the officials that the shot was late.
“I thought it was, but that’s not my call,” he said. “The referees make the call and they did the right thing. They conferred and that’s all I can really ask for. … I thought it was late, but I thought they handled it the way they were supposed to.”
Kamiak won despite having just five players score, and just three score more than two points. But the Knights got big games from Vicente, a 6-foot-6 senior center who had a game-high 24 points, and junior guard Tyler Nielsen, who added 23.
Nielsen scorched the Marauders from the 3-point stripe, where he was 7-for-10. In a Friday night win against Lynnwood he was 4-for-5, making him 11-for-15 from the 3-point arc in the past two games.
“He’s been on fire,” West said.
The teams traded baskets in the game’s early minutes, and Mariner had its last lead at 6-5 with 3:30 to play in the opening quarter. Kamiak then scored 10 unanswered points, gave up a field goal, and then scored another five straight points to cap a 15-2 run. The Knights led 20-8, matching another 12-point lead later in the second period for their largest margin of the game.
Kamiak was ahead 33-26 at halftime, and then pushed the advantage back to 11 points midway through the third period. Mariner kept making little runs, but the Knights kept getting baskets of their own to protect their lead.
Until the final few minutes, that is.
Nielsen scored with a rebound basket — his only field goal of the game that wasn’t a 3-pointer — to put Kamiak on top 58-51 with 3:03 to play. Mariner countered with two free throws from wing Ali Al-Azadi, and then in the last 1:20 guard Kiante Ahmad Woods scored a 3-point goal from the top of the key then added a pull-up jumper from right of the key with 21 seconds on the clock to tie the score.
Kamiak called a timeout to set up a final play.
“I wanted Imaan with the ball in his hands,” West explained. “That was the goal, to get him the basketball because he makes plays. But Imaan, being the unselfish player that he is, looked up and found Henderson (under the basket).”
The Knights, who opened their season with two non-league losses, have improved to 2-2 with back-to-back Western Conference 4A South victories.
“The first two games were like warm-up games,” West said. “We learned a lot. … We’ve taken little baby steps, but now we’ve got two conference wins.”
Jensen, meanwhile, was disappointed in the outcome, but pleased that his team battled back from a sluggish start.
“It was only about a four-minute stretch (early in the game) that we dug ourselves a little bit of a hole,” he said. “Then we had to climb out of it. But I’m really proud of our guys for being able to do that.
“When you dig yourself a hole, it’s how you bounce back (that counts) and I thought we bounced back awesome. So I’m proud of the team.”
At Kamiak H.S.
Mariner 8 19 17 14 — 58
Kamiak 15 18 16 11 — 60
Mariner—Bayek Tutlam 16, Kiante Ahmad-Woods 12, Cody Chrisman 4, Ali Al-Azadi 6, Andre Haghgoo 2, C.J. Garrison 2, Puma Purewal 3, Deyon Robertson 0, Greg Whitaker 0, Colton Richardson 13. Kamiak—Josh Wisnubroto 9, Chance Lord 0, Liam Jouett 2, Tyler Nielsen 23, Aman Hussein 0, Imaan Vicente 24, Jonathan Lee 0, Drew Blacksmith 0, Kyle Black 0, Brandon Wright 0, Henderson Belk 2, Simran Mand 0. 3-point goals _ Tutlam 4, Ahmad-Woods 2, Al-Azadi 1, Purewal 1, Nielsen 7, Vicente 2. Records—Mariner is 1-1 in league, 4-2 overall. Kamiak is 2-0, 2-2.