SHORELINE — Devon Nehring received a first-quarter pass on the baseline, pump-faked, took a dribble to the hoop and hammered home a rim-rattling one-handed slam that elicited a frenzied reaction from his teammates.
After contracting COVID-19 over winter break, the Shorecrest High School senior forward was nervous he’d be rusty in his first game back.
Instead, he had a career night.
And once again, the talent-laden Scots lit up the scoreboard while racing to a big win.
Nehring netted 24 points and led five scorers in double figures for the Shorecrest boys basketball team, which stormed past visiting Stanwood for an 88-68 victory Thursday night in a key Wesco 3A/2A clash.
“I was super proud of him,” Scots coach Eddie George said. “He’s been gone. This was his first game back. … He just played huge for us today. Just (an) overall great game.”
The same could be said for Shorecrest as a whole.
The Scots (10-1, 6-1 Wesco 3A/2A) were firing on all cylinders from the opening tip, using a first-quarter blitz to race to an early 21-point lead.
Stanwood (6-4, 5-2), which handed fellow league-title contender Arlington its first conference loss last week, made several runs to close gap.
But Shorecrest answered each time.
Standout senior point guard Elijah Johnson added 20 points and a number of assists for the Scots. Junior forward Parker Baumann also scored 20 points, while senior forward Newton Pepple and senior guard Kai Cannady chipped in 10 points apiece.
“I think they’re probably the best team that we’ve faced this year,” Spartans coach Josh Thayer said. “… They’ve got a lot of pieces.”
Nehring was in quarantine for Shorecrest’s first three games after winter break. He didn’t return to practice until Wednesday.
But he certainly didn’t play like someone who’d been out for multiple weeks.
The athletic 6-foot-6 Nehring was a force in the paint, finishing with 10 made 2-point baskets.
He threw down three energizing dunks. He banked in an acrobatic shot off the backboard. He unleashed an excellent spin move and reverse layup. And he even knocked down a 3-pointer.
“I had those first-game jitters,” he said. “I thought I was gonna be rusty. … I was like, ‘OK, I’m just gonna do what I normally do.’ And that’s just get rebounds. But today I did more.”
Johnson, meanwhile, turned in yet another standout performance. The speedy point guard expertly ran the show for the fast-paced Scots, scoring at all three levels while also finding a bevy of open looks for his teammates.
“He can do it all,” Nehring said. “Everybody in Washington knows they can’t leave Elijah alone, because he’ll put 30 on you. But if they start guarding him, he’ll have 15-plus assists. So we all work around Elijah.”
“He’s the glue of our team,” George added.
Baumann, a versatile 6-foot-5 wing, helped Shorecrest to a scorching start. He scored 12 points in the opening period, including two 3-pointers and a crafty reverse layup in transition.
Johnson added a 3-pointer in the closing seconds of the first quarter and the Scots stretched their lead to 30-9 in the opening minute of the second.
Stanwood trimmed the margin to 44-36 after senior Mack Hepper rattled in a 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer.
But Shorecrest opened the second half with a quick 10-0 run. Baumann scored six points on three mid-range jumpers during that stretch, pushing the Scots’ lead to 54-36.
“His mid-range game tonight was unbelievable,” George said. “And that’s what we told him tonight. We said, ‘They run a lot of zone, (so) you’ve gotta be ready for the short game.’ And he came through.”
The Spartans closed the gap to nine points late in the third quarter, but Shorecrest responded with a 14-0 run to pull away.
Nehring had a pair of one-handed transition dunks during that closing spurt, including an emphatic slam that made it 70-47 early in the fourth.
It was the ninth double-digit victory in 11 games for the Scots, whose lone loss was an 83-80 overtime defeat to Arlington last month. Shorecrest is averaging 75.5 points per game and has outscored opponents by 17.6 points per contest.
The Scots are tied with Arlington (8-2, 6-1) atop the 16-team Wesco 3A/2A. Mountlake Terrace (6-1, 4-1) and Marysville Pilchuck (4-3, 4-1) also have only one loss in conference play.
“I think we can do something real special,” Johnson said. “… I feel like a lot of people in the state sleep on us, because Shorecrest isn’t a well-known school for sports. But I think we’re here to make a statement.”
Sophomore guard John Floyd hit four 3-pointers and led Stanwood with 25 points. Hepper added 13 points and senior Brandt Gilbertson scored 12 for the Spartans.
“I told the boys that you lost to a good team,” Thayer said. “And the cool thing is that you played with them for three quarters, besides quarter one. … And so you try to take positives away from it.”
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