By David Pan Weekly Herald sports editor
It’s been a tough start to the New Year for the Edmonds-Woodway boys basketball team.
After having won six straight to close out 2011, the Warriors dropped their first two contests of 2012, including a tough 58-57 loss to Western Conference North Division rival Monroe on Jan. 5 at Monroe High School.
The culprit against the Bearcats was poor free throw shooting. Edmonds-Woodway shot only 63 percent from the line for the game and made only four of 10 free throws in the fourth quarter.
“They kind of came through it in the end under the pressure,” said Edmonds-Woodway senior Grant Pattison. “We didn’t play as good as we should have. Free throws killed us.”
Despite the loss, Warriors coach Steve Call and the players were feeling much better about the team’s performance as contrasted with a 66-44 loss to North Division rival Lake Stevens on Jan. 3 at Lake Stevens High School.
Edmonds-Woodway led 28-26 at halftime but then was outscored 40-16 in the second half. The Vikings switched their defense, pressuring the Warriors more.
“We just couldn’t react well,” Call said. “They did a couple of things we hadn’t seen. They were able to trap some of the corners. We got a little anxious and tight. We just didn’t take care of the ball.”
Edmonds-Woodway finished the first week of the New Year 3-3 in the league and 8-4 overall. The Warriors’ three league victories are over South Division rival Kamiak, Cascade and Mariner. The North is proving to be more difficult.
“The Wesco North competition is a lot better than we expected it to be,” Pattison said. “Teams are a lot more physical than Wesco South.”
Monroe (3-4, 6-6) currently is near the bottom of the North Division standings, but the Bearcats’ record is deceptive. Call noted that Monroe has lost four games by eight points. The Bearcats are just about as good as Stanwood and Snohomish, the top teams in the North Division, Call said.
The Warriors faced a large and boisterous crowd at Monroe High School, a setting that was new to many of the younger Edmonds-Woodway players.
“It’s hard losing a game like that when it comes down to the final shot,” Pattison said. “It comes down to what you could have and how free throws affected us at the end. We were down by 1 at the end. We shouldn’t have been in that position. … We have a lot of new faces on our team who haven’t seen varsity minutes. … Every possession is very critical. We had some simple mistakes. We had some simple turnovers and some stupid fouls that we didn’t need to do.”
A major area of improvement was how the Warriors got their big men involved in the offense against Monroe. Sophomore center Travis Bakken scored 10 points and was one of three Warriors to score in double figures along with Pattison (14 points) and Devin Joseph (12 points).
Edmonds-Woodway’s offense works best when it starts from the inside and then goes out.
“We need to start our offense with our bigs,” Pattison said. “We got it to our bigs a lot better (against Monroe). But the game before that I think our posts only had 13 points. … We’ll be successful if they get 20 points per game.”
Pattison, with 10 points, was the only Warrior to score in double figures in the Lake Stevens game.
Bakken is an increasingly integral part of the offense though he’s only a sophmore, and he’s responding to the challenge, Call said.
“I told him he’s got to start playing like a senior and he did (against Monroe). I expect a lot out of him.”
Bakken saw more intensity from his teammates in Thursday’s game.
“Against Lake Stevens, pretty much the whole game we weren’t aggressive,” Bakken said. “(Thursday) we came out a lot stronger and a lot more aggressive and we had an all-around better game. We just couldn’t come out with a win.”
The Warriors aren’t dwelling on last week’s losses.
“Our focus is about what’s next, not what was,” Call said. “They don’t dwell much on the past. They need to look ahead to what’s next.”
Still Pattison thinks the Lake Stevens and Monroe contests may have served as a wake-up call.
“These last couple of games have been good for us,” he said. “After those six wins I think we came into games thinking they are going to be easy and we’ll roll over teams. But it’s a reality check.”