MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — Marysville Pilchuck’s RaeQuan Battle is given the ultimate green light to shoot by Tomahawks boys basketball coach Bary Gould. But what differentiates Battle, a senior University of Washington signee, from other talented players in similar situations is his ability to recognize when it’s time to operate within the offense.
Thankfully for the Tomahawks, that wasn’t necessary on Monday.
Battle sunk a number of deep 3-pointers en route to a 21-point first half performance, enough for Marysville Pilchuck to withstand a second-half comeback from Mountlake Terrace in the visiting Tomahawks’ 51-42 win in a key Wesco 3A matchup.
“We always say it’s not a bad shot if you make it,” Gould said. “If he’s shooting those and they’re not going in obviously we’re going to make some adjustments, but he definitely starts out with the ultimate green light and we’ll see how it’s flowing. There are certain players of that caliber that get in the zone and are feeling the tingle and he certainly was feeling that tonight.
“As a coach, sometimes when you have great players you just have to get out of their way and let them do what they do.”
Battle stepped out and drilled four 3-pointers in the first half and threw down a thunderous putback dunk off a missed layup in transition to take over the first half and allowed the Tomahawks to assemble a 35-20 lead going into break.
“We noticed the defense was really aggressive and I could move around a lot and get a lot of wide-open shots,” said Battle, who finished with 25 points. “Some of them were a little deeper than where I usually shoot from, but I feel comfortable in that spot anyway.”
Battle credits his time playing on the Nike EYBL circuit with his AAU team, Seattle Rotary, to help extend his range.
“(There) are a lot of really great defenders, so I really wouldn’t attack as much and settled for the 3-point shots, so I got that going,” Battle said.
Marysville Pilchuck extended its lead to 23 points by the 1:40 mark in the third quarter, but with Battle sitting on the bench in the waning seconds of the third and the start of the fourth, the Hawks made a second-half push, ripping off a 14-1 run to chop the Tomahawks’ lead down to 47-39 with 53.1 seconds on the clock.
A pair of free throws from junior forward Ethan Jackson and two more from junior point guard Luke Dobler helped seal it for Marysville Pilchuck.
“I don’t know if we finished that well, but at the same time, that’s a huge win for us,” Gould said. “Anytime (we) beat Mountlake Terrace at Mountlake Terrace is huge.”
The Hawks were short-handed with starters Mason Christianson and Jace Breakfield out with injuries.
“We don’t have a next man up mentality — I don’t like that — but it’s an opportunity for other guys that are working hard to go and get the minutes and show what they can do,” Mountlake Terrace coach Nalin Sood said. “If this was a one-game shootout, then maybe it’s a little bit of, ‘woe is us’, but this is a process.
“Give a lot of credit to them, they’re a good basketball team and more than just one guy.”
Sood added he’s glad this is the last season he’ll have to coach against Battle.
“I don’t need any more gray hairs,” Sood quipped. “But he’s a very good basketball player and plays the right way. The neat thing, not if you’re an opponent but as a basketball fan, is that he’s gotten better every year.
“We wish him the best of luck at the University of Washington because it’s great to see a Wesco player at UW. I’ll be cheering for him because he plays the right way. After the game seeing how he was with a lot of our guys, I have a lot of respect for him off the court also.”
The Tomahawks stumbled at the beginning of the season by losing three of their first four games while in a similar shorthanded situation the Hawks currently face. Battle was suspended for the first two games and Dobler, an all-Wesco guard as a sophomore, was out with an injury.
But Marysville Pilchuck has been rolling ever since, as the Tomahawks (9-3, 6-0) are humming along at full strength and have won all six conference games this season by an average of 14.6 points.
The Tomahawks are giddy after a conference road win against the defending Wesco regular season champs, short-handed or not.
“Sadly, two of their best players were out, but really it doesn’t really matter because it helps our RPI a lot,” Battle said. “We feel really good after this one.”