By Mike Cane For The Enterprise
MUKILTEO — Zack Berg has gone from sixth man to Super Man.
After coming off the bench for the Edmonds-Woodway High School boys basketball team during the first part of the season, Berg got a chance to join the starting lineup. He has made the most of it.
Propelled by Berg’s game-high 25 points and at least a dozen rebounds, the Edmonds-Woodway Warriors simultaneously ended a four-week losing streak and took a crucial step toward making the playoffs by beating the Kamiak Knights 53-48 on Feb. 2.
E-W, which had lost eight consecutive times including four losses by five points or less, earned a season sweep in its two-game Western Conference South Division series with Kamiak. With three games to go, E-W (4-11 South) has a one-game lead over Kamiak (3-12) for fourth place among the division’s 4A teams. The Warriors also hold a tiebreaker over Kamiak thanks to their head-to-head sweep.
The South’s top three 4A squads earn an automatic berth into the upcoming 4A District 1 tournament; the No. 4 4A team will get a district play-in game. Jackson and Mountlake Terrace already have clinched district berths.
Berg, who tallied 15 points in the first half, has scored 25 points in two straight games. The versatile junior forward was a reserve for eight games but became a starter when his teammate, Josh Jordan (also a junior forward), suffered a hand injury.
“He’s really stepped up the second half of the season,” E-W coach Todd Rubin said of Berg, who transferred to E-W from King’s of Shoreline before the school year. “He’s been playing like an animal.”
Jordan, who was averaging more than 10 points and 10 rebounds per game for E-W, has missed eight games since suffering a deep cut on his left (shooting) hand. He got a gash under his pinky when he chased a ball near the edge of the court during practice and crashed into a fire extinguisher casing, Rubin said.
Whenever his team needed an answer Feb. 2, Berg provided it. Twice in the third quarter he hit 3-point shots that stifled Kamiak rally attempts. He finished with a game-high three 3s and grabbed key defensive rebounds when Kamiak roared back in the fourth quarter.
Aided by E-W’s poor free-throw shooting, Kamiak made it interesting at the end. The Knights outscored E-W 23-12 in the final quarter but never got closer than five points.
“It’s kind of tough to bounce back from all those losses, but we just came out fired up tonight — took off and just played a great game,” Berg said.
Besides Berg, E-W’s key contributors were guard Canon Rupple (nine assists) and guard Tyler Brudevold (eight points, two 3s).
Playing with lots of energy, the Warriors set the tone early.
Attacking mostly from within 10 feet but also hitting one 3-pointer, Berg scored nine points in the first quarter and tallied six in the second quarter. No other player from either team scored more than eight points in the half, which ended with E-W on top 31-18.
“We definitely brought the intensity early on in the game, especially the first three quarters,” coach Rubin said. “We were really getting after it.”
Two usual Kamiak starters, Andrew Makori and Anthony Berg, did not start because they violated team policy by showing up late to the pre-game shootaround, Kamiak coach Cory West said. The Knights committed 11 turnovers in the first half and did not shoot well (2 of 11 from the field in the second quarter) en route to falling behind by double digits.
“They came out ready,” West said of E-W. “They wanted it.”
Mike Cane writes for The Herald.