MOUNTLAKE TERRACE — Despite winning its eighth game in a row and clinching a No. 1 seed to the district tournament earlier last week, the Mountlake Terrace boys basketball team is far from satisfied with the way it is playing.
Much more work needs to be done, said Hawks coach Nalin Sood, following his team’s 68-43 rout of Everett in a Western Conference 4A South Division game on Feb. 13 at Mountlake Terrace High School.
“They are not the most excited group in there (locker room),” Sood said of his players. “They feel that there’re bigger things ahead for this basketball team, bigger goals and bigger accomplishments.”
One piece of the postseason fell into place three days earlier when the Hawks edged district rival Edmonds-Woodway 48-45 in overtime to clinch the South Division’s No. 1 berth to the Northwest 4A District playoffs.
Mountlake Terrace hosts the North Division’s No. 4 seed in a district playoff game at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 24. Securing home court advantage was important, according to junior forward Mike Boxley.
“That’s a big thing in a game, having your crowd behind you,” Boxley said.
Boxley hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer against Edmonds-Woodway to force overtime and teammate Justynn Hammond scored four of the Hawks’ six points in overtime.
“Everyone kind of did their part at the end of the game and we came through with a win,” Boxley said. “We knew what we were going for. We knew how much they wanted that game. That made us want it 10 times more.”
Junior guard Luke Hammond scored a game-high 19 points for the Hawks and Boxley added 10 points and had eight rebounds.
Mountlake Terrace (14-3 in the league, 17-3 overall) jumped to a 10-2 lead over Everett but saw the Seagulls rally to tie the score at 12 by the end of the first quarter.
The Hawks then turned up the defensive pressure on Everett and went on a 17-4 run to take a commanding 35-20 lead into halftime.
“Once we got some confidence getting our defensive aggressiveness going that changed a little bit,” Sood said. “We’ve been able to do that a lot the past couple of games. Our defensive aggressiveness gets our offense going … and that happened tonight.”
Luke Hammond and junior center Leigh Swanson each scored 13 points and Christian Hammond added 10.
Mountlake Terrace has won 15 out of its last 16 games dating back to Dec. 12.
“Our team has a lot more to work on,” Boxley said. “(We could be) running the offense a lot better. It could be a lot smoother.”
When all else fails Mountlake Terrace relies on its defense, which Sood views as the Hawks’ strength heading into the playoffs.
“Our defense night in and night out is outstanding,” Sood said. “If we can just keep going with our offensive execution, we’re going to be a good basketball team in the playoffs I hope.”
The Hawks went to their big people at the start of the third quarter against Everett. Swanson scored seven of his 10 points in the quarter and junior center Andrew Mundt added five points.
The crisp execution pleased Sood.
“We’re going to be an inside-outside team,” he said. “That will free up our guards for some good shots because we were getting the ball inside. We’ve got confidence in our inside guys and I think we’ve got a lot of confidence in our outside guys.
“But it’s going to start inside-outside.”
Sood was most pleased by his team’s effort against Edmonds-Woodway. If the Hawks can play with the passion and energy they did against the Warriors, then they’ll have success in the playoffs, Sood said.
“We’re not there yet,” he added. “For a team that is playing as well as they are, we still don’t feel we’re playing to our potential. There’s been flashes of it, definite flashes of it. But overall there’s just not that consistency right now and we’re going to have to get better.”