SHORELINE — Strong defense has been a staple of Mountlake Terrace basketball over the years under coach Nalin Sood.
This year’s young Hawks team continued that tradition Tuesday night, and it paved the way for an early-season statement win.
Mountlake Terrace held reigning Class 2A state runner-up Shorecrest nearly 20 points under its season average and earned a 59-49 road victory over the previously unbeaten Scots in the Wesco 3A/2A opener for both teams.
“It’s a credit to (these players) that they believed in it,” Sood said of his team’s defensive performance. “They wanted to win the game on the defensive end … It’s just individual accountability of each kid having the mental toughness and the willingness to go play man-to-man defense for 32 minutes. And that’s what they did.”
Terrace junior guard Khyree Armstead scored 23 points, including 14 in the second half, to lead a Hawks team (3-3 overall, 1-0 league) that returned just two players from last year’s Class 3A state regional squad.
Terrace senior Brock Davis, who missed last season with two stress fractures in his back, hit four 3-pointers and finished with 14 points. Several of his 3s came from well beyond the arc, including one from about 30 feet.
“When I’m feeling it, I like shooting deep,” Davis said.
Added Sood: “I was just disappointed other people didn’t get to see him play (last year), because I knew what he could do. He’s been playing great for us.”
Junior guard Zeke Tomas chipped in with eight points for Terrace, which now is a 2A school after the recent statewide reclassification.
Senior guard Malcolm Rosier-Butler led Shorecrest (5-1, 0-1) with a game-high 24 points. Senior forward Steven Lin added 10 points and junior guard Chris Lee scored eight for the Scots, who moved up to the 3A ranks this season.
Shorecrest played most of the game without 6-foot-8 star center and NCAA Division I prospect Philip Pepple, who was on the bench for the entire first half. Pepple entered the game at the start of the second half and scored four points, but suffered an injury late in the third quarter that sidelined him for the remainder of the contest.
“Philip didn’t get to play as much. He changes games a lot,” Sood said. “But they’re not just Philip … They’re more than just one guy. So that’s what’s rewarding — they’re a good team.”
Terrace’s defense set the tone early, holding the Scots scoreless for more than three minutes to begin the game. The Hawks led 17-8 after the first quarter and extended the margin to 25-13 near the midway point of the second.
Sparked by seven points from Rosier-Butler, Shorecrest closed the half on a 10-2 run that sliced the deficit to 27-23. The Scots cut the margin to two points late in the third quarter, but Terrace sophomore Mason Petersen answered with a deep 3 and the Hawks added two quick buckets in the opening minute of the fourth to push their lead to 44-35.
With Terrace on the verge of pulling away later in the fourth, Rosier-Butler made a pair of free throws and Shorecrest senior Dagmawe Menelik drained a 3 to cut it to 51-47 with less than three minutes to play.
But Armstead scored on the ensuing possession and the Hawks sank free throws down the stretch to seal the victory.
“This team is going to write their own story,” Sood said. “This is the start of it right here, but there’s still a lot of good basketball and good teams ahead. But hopefully this gives these guys a little bit of a feeling of what type of team they can be.”