SHORELINE — Early in the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s Wesco showdown, Shorecrest stars Malcolm Rosier-Butler and Philip Pepple found themselves on a two-on-one fast break.
As Rosier-Butler dribbled downcourt and neared the basket, he saw the Edmonds-Woodway defender quickly closing in. So instead of taking the ball to the rim for a contested lay-in, the senior point guard lofted a pass high off the backboard, knowing that his 6-foot-8 junior center was close behind.
Sure enough, Pepple leaped above the rim and completed the highlight-reel play with an emphatic alley-oop slam.
“It’s probably not how we would draw it up,” Shorecrest coach Brian Fischer said afterward with a laugh.
But nevertheless, it was the signature moment of a standout performance by Pepple and a key league victory for the Scots.
Pepple, an NCAA Division I prospect, scored a season-high 24 points and blocked five shots as Class 3A ninth-ranked Shorecrest held off visiting Edmonds-Woodway for a 68-67 win in a matchup between two of the top teams in Wesco 3A/2A.
“I’m proud of the team for pulling it out,” Fischer said. “Sometimes you just have to go make plays when you need to make plays, and we made enough down the stretch.”
Pepple threw down several dunks and scored nearly all of his points around the basket, tallying 14 points in the first half and eight in the fourth quarter. On defense, he quickly asserted his presence with three blocked shots in the first quarter, including two on the same possession.
“Philip really gives us a huge dimension inside,” Fischer said. “It gives us a little bit of security. If a guard gets beat off a dribble, he makes it really tough on them trying to finish inside, because he can block a few shots and get a lot of rebounds — he cleans that up really well. So he was huge for us.”
Shorecrest junior guard Chris Lee added 19 points, including 13 in the first half, and Rosier-Butler finished with 13 points. The trio of Pepple, Lee and Rosier-Butler combined for 56 of the Scots’ 68 points.
“(Chris) was big for us,” Pepple said. “Even though Malcolm wasn’t having the best of games, (Chris) stepped up big for us and that’s what we need from him.”
Edmonds-Woodway senior guard Keaton McKay scored a team-high 19 points, while senior Jalen Nash added 11 points and junior Uchenna Acholonu scored 10. E-W senior forward Ryan Peterson scored all nine of his points in the second half, and junior guard Noah Becker also had nine points for a Warriors team that battled back from several second-half deficits.
“It’s nice to see the resolve,” E-W coach Robert Brown said. “But I think if we play that way for two halves, we’re potentially talking about a different game. We weren’t that aggressive in the first half. We fell behind and we were struggling mentally and physically. It’s just inconsistencies that are plaguing us right now.”
Shortly after Shorecrest (14-1 overall, 6-1 league) extended a six-point halftime lead to 43-33 early in the third quarter, Edmonds-Woodway rattled off 10 straight points to gain a 46-45 edge. But the Scots answered with a 10-2 run and took a 55-51 lead into the fourth.
Then after Pepple’s alley-oop slam stretched the margin to 59-51 early in the fourth, Edmonds-Woodway forced several turnovers with its heavy full-court pressure and scored seven straight points to cut the deficit to 59-58. But Pepple keyed Shorecrest down the stretch, scoring six straight points for the Scots to make it 67-62 with 1:12 to play.
E-W forward Ryan Peterson trimmed the deficit to 67-64 on a putback with 40 seconds left and Shorecrest missed the front end of a one-and-one free throw opportunity, giving the Warriors (12-4, 6-2) a chance to tie the game. But the Scots came up with a defensive stop and Rosier-Butler hit one of two free throws in the closing seconds to all but seal the victory.
“Every time we built a lead, (Edmonds-Woodway) would come back, make plays and hang around,” Fischer said. “So we had to remain mentally tough. I’m thankful that our team did just enough to get that win and hold them off there at the end. (It’s) a good win, because Woodway’s tough. They make it hard on you.”
The victory moves Shorecrest into second place in the league standings behind fifth-ranked Stanwood, which is unbeaten in conference play. The Scots have won nine straight games since falling to Mountlake Terrace in their league opener.
“A lot of these kids have been playing together since fifth grade,” Fischer said of his team’s special season thus far. “They care a lot about each other, they like each other, they like playing together and they’re just really good guys. … I think their team chemistry, how much they care, how hard they work and hold each other accountable at practice, is really helping us play at a much higher level.”