Monroe tightens playoff race

MONROE — And down the stretch they come.

The Monroe Bearcats took a big step toward a postseason playoff berth Friday with a crucial Western Conference North division win, and in doing so, made the division playoff race a little more interesting.

The surprising Bearcats climbed into the thick of things in the Wesco North with a crucial 48-41 win over Marysville-Pilchuck Friday night at Monroe High School.

With the victory Monroe (7-5 in league, 10-6 overall) moved into a tie with Lake Stevens for the final two playoff positions in the division with just four games remaining in the season.

“It’s definitely a big win,” Monroe head coach Brett Wille said after the victory, but stated that the Bearcats aren’t looking past the remaining games.

“We’re trying to not put on too much pressure and play every game as it comes,” Wille said.

The loss snapped Marysville-Pilchuck’s three-game winning streak. The Tomahawks (8-5, 10-7) remained in second place in the division but now sit only a half-game ahead of Monroe and Lake Stevens in the standings.

“It was a really tough loss. Two teams battling for a playoff spot. It was a hard fought contest. They just made fewer mistakes than we did, especially down the stretch,” Marysville-Pilchuck head coach Bary Gould said.

Monroe relied on its post players, James MacIntyre and Jason Waltman, in leading the Bearcats to victory.

MacIntyre, a 6-foot-6 senior, finished with 19 points and six rebounds and Waltman, a 6-foot-7 senior, posted a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. More importantly, the two big men did a job well done defensively on Marysville-Pilchuck standout Taylor Stevens.

Although Stevens, who entered the game averaging 19.9 points per contest, scored 19 points, he was limited to just four total field goals, scoring 10 of his points from the free-throw line.

“He’s one of the best players in the league … (MacIntyre and Waltman) are really good defenders. They really shaded him well. We didn’t want him to get loose for some open shots,” Wille said.

Behind eight points from MacIntyre, the Bearcats opened up with 14-12 first-quarter lead.

In the second quarter it was all Waltman. The foward scored seven of Monroe’s first nine points and the Bearcats opened up the quarter with a 9-2 run and held its biggest lead of the game at 23-14.

Led by five Stevens’ points, the Tomahawks battled back with a full-court press that pressured the Bearcats into five second-quarter turnovers.

Stevens scored all eight of the Tomahawks third-quarter points as the two teams traded leads throughout most of the period. A MacIntyre basket and a Tim Ohlsen 3-pointer gave the ‘Cats a 32-27 lead and Monroe entered the final quarter with a five-point, 34-29 cushion.

The Tomahawks opened the fourth quarter using the full-court press again, but Monroe kept its composure and ended up using the M-P press to its advantage. While battling to move the ball over the mid-court line, the Bearcats took more time off the clock than the Tomahawks had hoped.

“They were composed in the press. They weren’t rushing and they ended up capitalizing on it,” Gould said.

The Tomahawks turned over the ball twice in the final minute of play, and despite sinking just six of 15 free-throw attempts, Monroe held on for its third straight win and its eighth in its past 10 games.

“We’re starting to play hard as a team,” Waltman said.

It’s been some time since the Bearcats have tasted the postseason. Monroe last earned a 4A District 1 berth in 2000.

Monroe guard Jason Wright had seven assists and Chris Bunge added four blocks and four steals for the Bearcats.

At Monroe H.S.



Marysville-Pilchuck — Forsythe 6, Lanphere 5, Lovell 2, Scheller 6, Stevens 19, Thomason 3, Kelly. Monroe — Bunge 2, Lucke 3, MacIntyre 19, Ohlsen 7, Waltman 14, Wright 3. 3-pointers — Stevens, Waltman, Ohlsen 2. Records — M-P 8-5 league, 10-7 overall. Monroe 7-5, 10-6.

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