EVERETT — Through two quarters it was a back-and-forth battle, with Mountlake Terrace and Decatur trading leads and big plays in a Class 3A state regional playoff game at Jackson High School.
But in the third quarter Mountlake Terrace put on a dominating display, burying Decatur with a 23-10 scoring blitz to break the game open on the way to a convincing 77-62 victory. The decision sends the Hawks to Tacoma for next weekend’s eight-team state basketball tournament.
Leading the way for Mountlake Terrace, which improved to 23-1, was guard Marquis Armstead with 24 points, six rebounds and three steals. Wing Ryan Shannon had 17 points, six assists, four rebounds and two steals, and guard Blake Fernandez chipped in 15 points.
Those three were instrumental in the third quarter, with Armstead scoring seven points and Shannon and Fernandez each adding six.
“This was our best game of the season,” said a beaming Nalin Sood, Mountlake Terrace’s head coach. “This was the best team we’ve played this season — nothing against Snohomish because that game was at Christmas — but after you play this much basketball and after you get this far in the season, this was the best team we’ve played. And we knew we’d have to play our best game to beat them.”
Decatur of Federal Way, the No. 5 seed from the West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament, tried to swing the game’s momentum in the third quarter with a full-court press. But the plan backfired as Mountlake Terrace broke the press easily and repeatedly with a series of fast-break baskets.
Of the Hawks’ 11 field goals in the third period, one was a 3-pointer, one was a shot from near the free-throw line, and the rest were all shots from around the basket. Two were crowd-thrilling dunks by Shannon, a gifted 6-foot-7 senior who gave the Gators fits inside.
The dunks were the 10th and 11th of the season for Shannon. “I keep track,” he said with a grin.
By the early minutes of the fourth quarter, Mountlake Terrace had its biggest lead of the game at 19 points, 62-43. Decatur kept competing and was able to pull within 11 points midway through the period, but would come no closer.
At halftime, Sood said, “our thing was to just stay positive and stay aggressive. … When they pressed us, they wanted to make it a faster game because they’ve got guard play. But we stayed aggressive and got to the rim and our guys finished at the rim really well.”
The Hawks ended the game shooting 55 percent from the field (30-for-55), including a blistering 68 percent (17-for-25) in the second half. But as good as they were offensively, they were just as sharp on the defensive end, holding Decatur to a mere 33 percent (21-for-63) from the field.
“Defense is what we strive on every day in practice, and we try to work hard on that in games, too,” Armstead said. “Everything is just defense with this team. If we’re not playing defense, that’s what’s letting (the opponents) back in the game.”
“I think we’re very balanced (offensively and defensively), but we like to defend,” Shannon agreed. “That’s our main thing. And that’s what coach preaches.”
Sood, who is in his 25th season as a coach at Mountlake Terrace and his 12th season as head coach, will be taking his fifth team to the Tacoma Dome and his first since 2009.
“Which was too long ago,” he said. “I’m glad to be going back down.”
“This team has had this goal (of getting to state) since Day 1,” Armstead said. “And it’s amazing that we’re doing it now.”
“It means so much,” Shannon said. “We’ve worked so hard since (school started in) September. All the conditioning, all the workouts, all the open gyms, and it’s all paying off now.”
At Jackson H.S.
Decatur—Bartley 4, Hunter 23, Young 6, Rawls 11, Locascio 0, Rollins 0, Wilson 0, Larkins 0, Olufson 3, Coulibally 0, Castro 0, Ferrell-Logan 15. Mountlake Terrace—Zerom 5, A. Moisant 0, Fernandez 15, Shannon 17, Lotz 0, Armstead 24, Bowman 2, E. Moisant 3, Lacasse 2, Russell 9. 3-point goals—Hunter 2, Olufson 1, Zerom 1, Fernandez 1, Shannon 1, Armstead 3, E. Moisant 1. Records—Decatur 18-7. Mountlake Terrace 23-1.