With the game hanging in the balance, Lynnwood’s Andrew Beatty seized control.
The Royals led Shorewood by as many as nine points early in the fourth quarter but saw their lead cut to three points — 37-34 — late in the period on back-to-back 3-pointers by the Thunderbirds. But those would be the final six points Shorewood would score the rest of the game.
Beatty responded with two straight baskets and three free throws to spearhead an 11-0 run as Lynnwood prevailed 48-34 in a Western Conference South Division boys basketball game Jan. 18 at Lynnwood High School.
Beatty scored nine of his 13 points in the final 2 minutes and 53 seconds of the fourth quarter.
“He’s been around and understands how to play in those situations,” said Lynnwood coach Landon Porter. “He takes care of the ball, finds the right option and is able to attack when it’s open.”
Lynnwood outscored Shorewood 16-8 in the final period. The first quarter was nearly the opposite as the Thunderbirds had the hot hands, jumping to a 16-8 advantage.
The Royals have had trouble getting their offense rolling early in games and also have struggled in closing out opponents, Beatty said.
“That’s something that we’ve been doing lately is we either start out really slow and get down really fast or we’ll be up in the game and we’ll let them come back,” he said. “We tend to lose focus and try to speed up the game. That’s going out of what we plan to do. So in this game we really focused and we slowed down the game even when they started scoring. We really learned a lot.”
Senior guard Tomas Sanchez helped the Thunderbirds jump out to a 16-8 advantage with four 3-pointers. He finished the first half with 17 points, but the 6-foot-1 junior was limited to only two points in the second half.
Porter didn’t like what he saw from his defense in the first quarter and altered the Royals’ approach in the second quarter. Shorewood’s constant movement on offense surprised Lynnwood.
“They kind of came out with a different style of play and that threw us off for a second and then they started hitting shots,” Porter said. “When they’re hitting shots and we’re not hitting shots, it looked like the momentum was going their way, and we had to do something to change that.”
So toward the end of the first quarter and into the second quarter, the Royals mixed up their defensive schemes. Lynnwood threw different defensive sets at Shorewood and the Thunderbirds struggled to adapt. Sanchez’s fourth 3-pointer of the game at the 4:52 mark was the only shot Shorewood connected on in the second quarter as the Royals outscored the Thunderbirds 14-3 to take a 22-19 lead into halftime.
“We started something and switch and do something to try and throw them off a little bit,” Porter said. “We called a couple of set plays and got some shots rolling.”
Lynnwood senior guard Spencer Hunsinger closed out the quarter with three 3-pointers.
“Spencer is a great shooter for us,” Beatty said. “We’re lucky to have him and those were important 3s. That’s a big change of momentum right there.”
The Royals extended their lead to 30-22 late in the third quarter before the Thunderbirds closed the gap with a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to 30-28.
The victory was the Royals’ third in four games. One of the keys to Lynnwood’s success is a balanced scoring attack. Lynnwood’s Hunsinger finished with 15 points, while teammate Simi Fajemisin scored eight of his 11 points in the second half.
“When we can get Simi, Aaron (Matzen) and Andrew all going fairly well and other guys chipping in points here and there, there’s a nice balance and that really helps us,” Porter said. “That’s been kind of the things we’ve tried to focus on.”
Fajemisin, a 6-foot-9 sophomore center, drew at least one defender throughout the first half, which threw off his game, Porter said. “There was a guy on him always trying to deny him. He wasn’t able to do the things he normally does. But once we were able to attack and beat that, it loosened things up a big.”
Fajemisin is continuing to progress in only his second season of varsity play.
“Even more so than that, the guys are starting to figure out how to really play with a guy that big,” Porter said. “It’s a little unusual. He gives you a different look than what we’ve had in the past.”
Lynnwood had what Beatty described as a bumpy road at the beginning of the season but had since regrouped well following a team meeting. The result was a better understanding of each other’s roles on the team and a higher level of trust among the players, said Beatty, who saw a big difference the last four games.
“We seem more fluid, more motivated,” he said. “We trust each other. We’re not afraid to pass the ball to each other and put up shots and everybody is staying inside their roles.”