By Alex Bosworth For The Enterprise
MILL CREEK — The first time Jackson and Meadowdale played, Connor Hamlett scored 30 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and forced overtime by collecting an offensive rebound and putting it back in the closing moments of regulation.
How do you follow up a performance like that?
Apparently, you do it by playing the exact same way — and this time his Meadowdale Mavericks didn’t need overtime to get a victory.
Hamlett scored 26 points and grabbed 11 rebounds as Meadowdale drilled Jackson, ranked fourth in the state in the Class 4A Associated Press poll. The Mavericks won 79-55 to prevent the Timberwolves from clinching the Wesco South title outright Feb. 5 at Jackson High School.
Jackson, which is already guaranteed a co-Wesco South championship, fell to 16-2 on the season. Both those losses have come at the hands of Meadowdale, ranked ninth in the Associated Press Class 3A poll.
What does Meadowdale know about Jackson that it isn’t sharing with the rest of the league?
“That’s confidential right now,” said Hamlett, a 6-foot-7 senior forward, of Meadowdale’s game plan.
But a big part of that game plan was pounding the ball inside, early and often. Hamlett scored 19 of his 26 points in the first half — including seven straight points to start a 16-0 run that spanned the first and second quarters and broke the game wide open.
“We tried to get the ball to No. 42 (Hamlett) as much as we could,” Meadowdale head coach Chad McGuire said. “It’s what we try to do every game. … He does a great job of establishing himself, and an even better job finishing. And when he doesn’t get the ball he’s a pretty good offensive rebounder.”
Hamlett, who averages 16.5 points per game, certainly appears to play his best against Jackson.
With the score tied 7-7 in the first quarter after a nice drive by Jackson’s Marshall Massengale, Hamlett took center stage. He hit a 3-pointer. He tipped in his own miss. He out-leapt Jackson defenders to convert a layup.
Hamlett then rebounded a Jackson miss and passed to senior guard Matt Beucherie (11 points), who banked in a 3-pointer as the first-quarter buzzer sounded for a 17-7 Meadowdale lead.
Jackson’s bleeding didn’t stop there, as Meadowdale scored the first six points of the second quarter and outscored the Timberwolves by 13 points in the second for a 23-point lead at halftime.
“We were shell-shocked to be honest with you,” Jackson head coach Steve Johnson said. “We didn’t expect to be down 23 (at halftime). … It wasn’t what I expected. … We just didn’t perform consistently.”
From Beucherie’s banked-in 3-pointer to Hamlett’s performance, things just plain went wrong for Jackson on Friday. The Timberwolves were unable to prevent lobbed passes to Hamlett, and when the entry pass wasn’t available, the Mavericks converted shot attempts at a high rate from beyond the 3-point arc.
Meadowdale finished with seven 3-pointers, two more than the smaller Jackson team. Junior wing Tyce Tallman hit three 3-pointers for the Mavericks, grabbed six rebounds and scored 16 points — including a few key baskets after Jackson cut the lead to 12 points in the third quarter.
“They’re a great team, well coached,” McGuire said of Jackson. “We played great defense (but) you got to hope they miss shots. … (Our team) did a good job of contesting shots.”
Standout guard Brett Kingma scored 18 points for Jackson, which saw an eight-game winning streak snapped. Massengale, a senior guard, added 17 points and Seattle Pacific University-bound Ryan Todd added nine points in his first game back since suffering a concussion on Jan 22.
Jackson, whose tallest player is 6-foot-5 Andy Gay, accumulated three technical fouls during the game, compared to none for Meadowdale.
“We’ve played great all year,” said Johnson, whose team already has clinched a 4A District 1 playoff berth. “Tonight, from (Beucherie) banking in that 3-pointer to end the first quarter (things didn’t go well) … We need to win one more game to win our league, and get ready for the playoffs. … The things we need to do better got exposed tonight.”
Jackson had an opportunity to clinch the league title Tuesday, Feb. 9, when it was scheduled to play Mountlake Terrace. Meadowdale (14-4 overall) started a new winning streak after losing on a last-second shot to Shorecrest on Feb. 2.
“It’s a big deal,” Hamlett said of the win. “We had a great game plan that coach put together (and we committed to it). … We knew they were going to come out strong (after what happened the first time).”
Alex Bosworth writes for The Herald.