MILL CREEK — Less than a month ago, the Shorecrest High School boys basketball team suffered an 18-point loss to rival Shorewood and had a losing record in conference play halfway through its league slate.
The Scots haven’t lost since.
No. 3 seed Shorecrest pulled away for its 10th consecutive win and clinched its fifth state regional berth in the past seven years with a 68-58 victory over No. 2 seed Stanwood in a Class 3A Northwest District Tournament semifinal Wednesday night at Jackson High School.
“I think it was a blessing to lose,” Scots coach Eddie George said of the Jan. 25 loss to Shorewood. “… We just got too comfortable, and so I think it was the best thing for us to actually lose that game by so many points, because they were embarrassed.
“I told the guys in practice, ‘Let’s regroup. That game’s over, and let’s make a charge from here.’”
Shorecrest sure has.
Sophomore guard Elijah Johnson led the Scots’ latest triumph with a game-high 20 points, including 11 in the third quarter. He drained two 3-pointers in the period, the latter capping an 8-0 run that gave Shorecrest a 49-40 lead.
“It’s hard for them to guard us, because we have a lot of shooters on the team,” George said. “And our motto is once one guy gets hot, we try to find them. (Our players) moved the ball, moved the ball, and (Elijah) was open in the corner multiple times and he got hot, so we just kept coming back to him and feeding the beast.”
Tim Opany added 17 points for the Scots (18-4), including an acrobatic reverse layup at the third-quarter buzzer that made it 53-43.
The Spartans (16-6) cut the deficit to five points on several occasions in the fourth, but couldn’t get any closer.
Stanwood’s Dom Angelshaug hit a 3-pointer that trimmed the margin to 63-58 with 1:32 to play.
But on the ensuing possession, Shorecrest’s Michael Atendido drove the lane and dished a bounce pass to Dante Recabarren, who finished with a layup to push the lead to seven.
The Scots then added several free throws to seal the victory and beat the Spartans for the second time this month. In their first meeting, Shorecrest prevailed 82-79 in overtime on Feb. 3.
Shorecrest’s defense was key in Wednesday’s rematch, forcing numerous turnovers and holding Stanwood under 60 points for just the fifth time this season.
“I always say if we lock down on defense, we can always be in the ballgame,” George said. “And that’s what happened tonight.”
With the victory, the Scots moved one step closer to avenging last year’s state regional loss to Capital, which left them one win short of a trip to the Tacoma Dome for the Hardwood Classic.
Shorecrest will face top-seeded Marysville Pilchuck in Saturday’s district title game before turning its attention to next week’s state regional, which likely will be an elimination game that sends the winner to the Tacoma Dome.
“We (have) to get it done this year, because last year we were one game away and it broke our hearts to lose,” Johnson said. “So this year we promised ourselves we weren’t gonna feel that again.”
Angelshaug led Stanwood with 15 points and Cort Roberson added 14. Kaeden McGlothin scored all 10 of his points in the first half for the Spartans, who suffered their fourth loss in six games after starting the season 14-2.
With the loss, Stanwood dropped to the district loser’s bracket and will face fifth-seeded Meadowdale in an elimination game Friday night. The Spartans need to win two consecutive loser-out games to reach the state regionals for the eighth consecutive season.