LYNNWOOD — It took a mere 11 seconds for the heavyweight showdown between the Edmonds College and Everett Community College men’s basketball teams to turn on a dime.
Edmonds had been outplayed in the first half and was perhaps fortunate to head into halftime trailing by just seven. But on the opening possession of the first half Edmonds’ Squeeky Johnson drained a 3-pointer and was fouled, converting a four-point play.
That provided the spark for a 14-point run that gave Edmonds control of the game, and the Tritons went on to defeat the Trojans 91-84 Wednesday night in a Northwest Athletic Conference North Region knock-down drag-out before an enthusiastic crowd at Edmonds’ Seaview Gymnasium.
Wednesday’s game, which was contested between two teams on a roll — Edmonds had won 12 straight and was ranked No. 4 in NWAC, while Everett had won its previous nine and was ranked No. 3 — was played at a frenetic pace and at a high level, and the officials swallowed their whistles as the teams were allowed to slug it out in a literal sense.
But it was the Johnson-led 14-0 run to open the second half, which spanned just 2:14, that proved the difference.
”That’s playoff basketball,” said Johnson, a sophomore guard from Vancouver, Washington, who finished with 18 points, including five 3-pointers.
“We played great,” Johnson added. “We stuck together really well. The first half, down seven, we didn’t let that faze us. Coach (Kyle Gray) came in and talked to us and we knew we had to play harder, specifically on defense. We came out and did that, and we were able to hit shots and make the simple plays on offense to get the lead and finish off the game.”
Chris Lee added 19 points for the Tritons (5-0 league, 15-2 overall), who remained in first place in the North Region. Elyon Zevenbergen added 12 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks, while Tony Frolich-Fair had 12 points and eight boards as Edmonds spread the wealth on offense.
”We like to play with good tempo, with good pace, where we don’t hesitate and just want to go,” Gray said. “We run our stuff well when do that, when we play in rhythm and flow, and we did that tonight.
“This was huge,” Gray added about the significance of the victory. “Everett is phenomenal, they’re a great team. We have to make sure we maintain our home court because we have to go back to their place, too. It was just a really important win because we were at home.”
Jadin Penigar poured in 24 to lead the Trojans (4-1, 17-3), and he almost single-handedly pulled Everett back into it late in the second half after the Tritons had built the lead to 13. Leon Sayers added 14 points and nine rebounds for the Trojans.
“We played hard, but we started off the second half kind of slow and that’s what turned the game around for us — in a bad way,” Penigar said. “We weren’t locked in, we kind of got up and got a little complacent. Playing on the home floor they had the advantage and it definitely showed tonight.”
Despite being at home, Edmonds was on the back foot in the first half as Everett got hot from 3-point range, and the Tritons trailed 48-41 heading into the second half. But Johnson’s four-point play began a stretch of five consecutive possessions in which the Tritons scored, while they simultaneously turned the Trojans over and forced missed shots. Johnson’s steal and breakaway lay-up gave Edmonds a 52-48 lead and prompted an Everett timeout, and his 3-pointer on the Tritons’ ensuing possession gave Edmonds a stunning 55-48 advantage.
”Defense,” was what Johnson said was the key to the run. “We just really had to focus in on defense and getting the rebound, then playing our basketball on offense, just pushing it.”
Edmonds’ lead ballooned to 81-68 with less than seven minutes remaining when Penigar went to work. Penigar scored 11 straight Everett points, including three 3s, to get the Trojans back within striking distance. Then Sayers’ lay-up on a nice feed from Glacier Peak High School graduate Tucker Molina made it a one-possession game at 87-84 with 1:19 remaining. Everett got the ball back and Sayers was fouled, but he missed the front end of a one-and-one, and the Tritons grabbed the rebound. Lee made four straight free throws to close out the game.
The teams play their rematch on Feb. 22 at the Walt Price Student Fitness Center on the campus of Everett CC.
Edmonds 65, Everett 52
The Tritons, behind their size advantage and the play of Jada Walters, pulled ahead in the second quarter of the North Region contest.
Walters finished with 16 points, and Edmonds (3-2 league, 11-4 overall) outscored Everett 23-8 in the second quarter to counter a strong Trojans start. Then when Everett pulled within six in the third quarter, Walters converted a four-point play to stretch the lead back to double digits. Keirra Slippern added 12 points for the Tritons.
Glacier Peak High School graduate Maddy Thoma had 22 points and seven boards to lead the Trojans (0-5, 3-12).
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