MUKILTEO — Five games in seven days and a trip to Southern California and back takes an unforgiving toll on any team’s energy supply.
The whirlwind past week may have caught up with Kamiak coach Cory West during the final eight minutes of Tuesday’s league matchup with Monroe, but his Knights discovered an extra reservoir of stamina to barely hold off the Bearcats for a Wesco 4A win.
Kamiak owned a commanding lead, but after three quarters of high-intensity defense, the Knights’ advantage slowly evaporated.
“I’ll be really blunt and honest, it was a blur,” said West of the fourth quarter. “I looked over to (an assistant) coach and said, ‘Coach, it’s a five-point game. I could’ve swore we were just up 15.’ And he said, ‘We were.’ I’m drained right now. I don’t know what happened.”
Monroe, trailing by 14 entering the fourth, cut its deficit to four with 44 seconds to play, but senior captain Carson Tuttle knocked down his free throws and the Knights earned a 58-53 win at Kamiak High School.
Tuttle finished with a team-high 25 points, five assists and four rebounds. He scored 11 of Kamiak’s 12 fourth-quarter points. Jordan Meyer, who West said was “probably the difference in the game,” came off the bench to score 12 points.
The win came on the heels of a long trip to Rancho Mirage, California, where Kamiak went 2-2 during the Rancho Mirage Holiday Invitational. Kamiak returned late Sunday night, practiced Monday, returned to school Tuesday and was back in the gym later that night for league action.
“It’s a lot of being drained and playing,” West said. “When it comes playoff time, that is what you got to learn to do.”
The win moved the Knights (5-5, 3-1 Wesco 3A) to .500. Kamiak challenged itself with tough non-conference games against Mountlake Terrace and Marysville Pilchuck. And coming off difficult tournament matchups, West is hopeful the experience will payoff in January and February.
Kamiak’s hot shooting got the Knights off to a fast start Tuesday. Seven first-half 3s, coupled with stingy defense, helped Kamiak build a 32-18 halftime edge.
Strong defense from Daniel Sharpe, Braden Leary and Landon Overturf helped limit Bearcats 6-foot-7 standout Colby Kyle to four halftime points.
Meyer hit his third triple of the game to give Kamiak a 42-24 lead with 3:40 to play in the third quarter, and Monroe closed the gap to 46-32 before the start of the fourth.
“Jordan Meyer came off the bench and sparked us big,” West said. “That’s huge for us. That’s probably the difference in the game right there, his 12 points off the bench.”
Then, perhaps the result of five games in the past week, finally displayed its effect.
Led by Monroe guard Taylor Sturgeon, who scored 11 of his game-high 26 points during the fourth, the Bearcats cut Kamiak’s lead to 50-45 following a three-point play from Sturgeon. A free throw from Luis Rubalcaba with 44 seconds remaining trimmed the deficit to 51-47.
But Tuttle refused to let Monroe (8-2, 3-1) come all the way back.
The senior captain converted six consecutive high-pressure free throws to nix the Bearcats’ rally.
“It’s nothing but expected,” said West of Tuttle’s game-closing free throws. “If he doesn’t hit those, I’m upset. That’s what he puts in all the work for.”
Kyle finished with 12 points, six boards and three blocks for Monroe, and Spencer Davidson chipped in 10 points.