TACOMA — For the Mountlake Terrace boys basketball team, it was a season that should be remembered for much more than the way it ended.
So said Hawks coach Nalin Sood on Saturday evening, minutes after his team was eliminated in a 58-38 Class 3A state regional playoff loss to Wilson at Mount Tahoma High School. Mountlake Terrace had two early leads and hung with the Rams into the third quarter, but then faded over the game’s final 12 minutes.
As much as the defeat stung, there was equal pride for a season that was very much in keeping with the proud tradition of Mountlake Terrace basketball.
The Hawks graduated seven seniors a year ago, and only senior posts Loren LaCasse (6-foot-7) and Greg Bowman (6-6) returned with much varsity experience. “Those are two tremendous bookends … but you have to have more than just two guys to get it done,” Sood said. “So I’m very proud of how all these guys played their roles and gave us an opportunity to have a successful season.
“We could’ve been done a month ago. We could’ve been done three weeks ago.” Instead the Hawks kept playing until the season had only one week remaining, “and that’s not bad,” he said. “What a story the 2013-14 team wrote. It’s a tremendous story for those young men, what they accomplished this year.”
Mountlake Terrace was facing a Wilson team that brought an outstanding 21-3 record into the game, a mark that has the Rams ranked fourth in the state among Class 3A teams. The teams traded leads in the early moments, but Wilson eased in front with an 8-3 scoring burst over the last four minutes of the first quarter, a stretch broken only by a Bowman 3-pointer.
The deficit was 26-21 at halftime and it was 33-27 midway through the third period, but at that point Wilson began to pull away.
The Rams used a relentless full-court defense throughout the game, and Mountlake Terrace did not handle the pressure well. The Hawks committed 20 turnovers and, as Sood pointed out, several of those turnovers led to quick Wilson scoring chances at the other end.
“We knew they were fast, we knew they were quick, but they played a physical style also,” he said. “They don’t back down, and you have to really handle the basketball to get in your sets and execute against them. And it was tough to get into our offense.
“We had good intensity … but I’m sure at some point it wears you down. So a credit to (the Rams) and the way the play. They’re a good team. They were a better team tonight and they deserve to be in the final eight (at next week’s state tournament).”
Backup forward Gabe Altenberger led the Hawks with 11 points, including a pair of 3-pointers, while Bowman added 10. LaCasse, hampered by early foul trouble — he eventually fouled out, had just four points.
“I thought we were in good shape at halftime,” Sood said. “But we couldn’t make some shots and we had too many turnovers. We have to get shots and get offensive rebounds to be successful, and we didn’t have that chance tonight.”
This was the final game for seniors LaCasse, Bowman, Yoel Tekle and Yonnas Tewolde, a quartet that all spent four years in the Mountlake Terrace program.
“Those four guys are just unbelievable,” Sood said. “I’m pretty lucky to coach those four guys. … They make you a better coach because you work hard for them and you want to work hard. and they make you a better person because of who they are.”
Saying good-bye, he added, “is the toughest part right now.”
At Mt. Tahoma H.S.
Mountlake Terrace 9 12 10 7 — 38
Wilson 13 13 17 15 — 58
Mountlake Terrace—Gabe Powter 0, Isaiah Green 0, Drew Serres 0, Yonnas Tewolde 0, Prescott Day 5, Gabe Altenberger 11, Matt Moisant 4, Greg Bowman 10, Derek Anyimah 0, Loren LaCasse 4, Yoel Tekle 4, Shimron Masih 0. Wilson—Ivy Smith Jr. 15, David Jenkins 16, Elijah Welch 3, Tyler Smith 0, Alphonso Anderson 9, Robert Knox 2, Keun Thompson 0, Jamal Welch 9, A.J. Ruffin Jr. 0, Montre Brown 2, Jerrell Gray 2, Demache Booth 0.
3-point goals—Prescott Day 1, Gabe Altenberger 2, Greg Bowman 1, Ivy Smith Jr. 1, David Jenkins 3, Elijah Welch 1. Records—Mountlake Terrace is 17-8. Wilson is 22-3.