MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — Leading by 15 points early in the fourth quarter, Mountlake Terrace coach Nalin Sood never imagined his team would have to hold off Shorewood on four straight possessions in the final moments to preserve a 67-63 Wesco 3A South victory over the Thunderbirds on Friday.
After being down by as many as 18 and trailing 65-50 with less than six minutes to play in the game, Shorewood rallied with a 13-0 run to cut the deficit to two with 2:04 remaining in the game.
“At some point you knew they were going to make their run,” Mountlake Terrace head coach Nalin Sood said. “And how were we going to weather their run? Were we going to weather it where it was going to be five or six points, but they went on a 13-0 run.
“I think we lost our will to really finish off the game the way we had played because we were playing pretty good basketball there for a while.”
The Thunderbirds had four chances to tie or take the lead and all four times they went to senior guard Taylor Freeman. Freeman led all scorers with 29, but his shots faltered late. He missed potential go-ahead 3-pointers on three consecutive possessions and was blocked by a Mountlake Terrace defender on a drive with under five seconds to play that would have tied the score. There appeared to be contact on the play, but the officials did not call a foul.
It’s the second time this season the Hawks have held a significant lead over Shorewood only to see the Thunderbirds erase the deficit in the fourth quarter. The first time the Thunderbirds were able to complete the comeback, defeating the Hawks 72-70 at Shorewood in early January.
Away from home the Thunderbirds weren’t so lucky.
Sood said both teams cause matchup problems for each other.
“The matchups at times play in our favor and then they make the run and the matchups play into theirs,” Sood said. “We’re a bad matchup for them because of our size and they’re a bad matchup for us at times because of their guards.”
Freeman had a big second half in the first meeting between the two teams, helping his team come back. The Hawks seemed focused on not allowing him to do that again, emphasizing the importance of not letting him get out in transition in the first quarter.
Freeman, however, found other ways to score. By halftime he had 18 points and was the biggest reason his team trailed by just four.
“He’s going to put his head down and just go on you,” Sood said of Freeman. “You’ve got to play tough, good and fundamental defense. He’s a kid that is not afraid of contact. That’s why he’s doing what he’s doing. He’s having a great year.”
The Hawks separated themselves from the Thunderbirds in the third quarter behind their two leading scorers, seniors Loren Lacasse and Greg Bowman. The two combined to score 18 of the Hawks 25 third quarter points and each made two 3s.
With their offense clicking and the defense doing a better job of containing Freeman, Mountlake Terrace built a 59-44 lead going into the final quarter.
“I think it was just good execution,” Sood said. “We limited them a lot of times down the court to one shot. We did a great job of limiting them to one shot and we contained their guys and then we came down and took high-percentage shots.”
Bowman added a three-point play on the first possession of the fourth quarter to give the Hawks their biggest lead of the game before the Thunderbirds went on their furious rally.
Lacasse finished with 28 points to lead the Hawks, but none bigger than the two free throws he made with 1.4 seconds to play that ended the Thunderbirds 13-0 run and put the game away.
“Loren was beating himself up really bad after last game,” Sood said. “That kid just beats himself up so bad because he’s so competitive. But once he could move on past that, he moved on to this game and his competitiveness came out.”
Lacasse missed a go-ahead free throw with 4.8 seconds to play in Tuesday’s game against Marysville Pilchuck. The Hawks went on to win 62-60 in overtime.
Free-throw shooting has been an Achilles heel for the Hawks this season. Before Lacasse’s two free throws that sealed the game, they had missed four consecutive shots from the line in the final minute.
“It’s like putting,” Sood said. “I can’t overstress it. I can’t say if we shoot 1,000 tomorrow it’s going to make us that much better. We do our reps and we talk about it a little bit. We change it up and we do different variety.
“We’ll make them. We’ve got another game Monday night to go make them.”
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At Mountlake Terrace H.S.
Shorewood–Anxhelos Pere 2, Taylor Freeman 29, Brandon Mar 4, Jordan Muir-Keung 12, Karson Gronvold 0, Zane Hopen 6, Cameran Testerman 2, Sam Boone 8. Mountlake Terrace–Isaiah Green 0, Yonnas Tewolde 2, Prescott Day 0, Gabe Altenberger 2, Matthew Moisant 6, Greg Bowman 14, Loren Lacasse 28, Yoel Tekle 15. 3-point goals–Freeman 2, Hopen 2, Bowman 3, Lacasse 4. Records–Shorewood 5-6 league, 10-8 overall. Mountlake Terrace 9-2, 14-4.