Up-and-down state run comes to an end for Gators with sixth place

The student sections for Decatur were, along with Federal Way
The student sections for Decatur were, along with Federal Way's fans, the biggest and the loudest during last weekend's Class 4A Boys Basketball State Tournament inside the Tacoma Dome. Decatur won the school's second state tournament trophy with a sixth-place finish. Federal Way finished in second place, its highest ever.
— image credit: Casey Olson/The Mirror

By CASEY OLSON, The Mirror

It was quite a roller-coaster ride for the Decatur High School boys basketball team at the 2008 Class 4A state tournament.

Of their four games inside the Tacoma Dome, three came down to the last possession in regulation. Unfortunately for the Gators, two of the three ended in losses.

Decatur’s final loss at the state tournament came Saturday afternoon to the Bellarmine Prep Lions, 62-59, in the third/sixth game inside the Tacoma Dome.

After rolling over Snohomish in the opening round Wednesday morning, 49-39, Decatur got an improbable putback by sophomore Jordan McCloud with 1.3 seconds left to beat Shadle Park in Thursday’s quarterfinal, 63-61, before losing to Federal Way in the semis Friday in overtime.

And for the third straight day, it came down to the last possession for the Gators against Bellarmine (25-4).

Trailing by three points with 9.8 seconds left, the Gators (22-8) called a play to free up leading scorer Marcus Tibbs for a 3-pointer. Tibbs, who finished with 20 points, fumbled the inbounds pass, then pump-faked with the Lions’ Avery Bradley covering him.

But Bradley didn’t fall for it and batted the shot away.

Decatur’s sixth-place finish was the second time in school history the Gators won a trophy at the state tournament. Decatur finished second in 1996.

Saturday’s game with the Lions wasn’t the easiest game to get up for. Losing a game in the state semifinals is tough enough, but the Gators had to suck it up less than 24 hours after losing a gut-wrenching game to district rival Federal Way.

Not only would a win over Federal Way on Friday have given Decatur a berth into the state championship game, but the loss came in overtime and Michael Hale’s 3-pointer at the end of regulation seemed to be in the basket.

“It’s tough to come back after you lose a heartbreaker,” said Gators coach Kevin Olson. “Nobody wants to be in the consolation bracket.”

But the Gators played with a lot of heart against Bellarmine and were in control of the game entering the fourth quarter.

After a ragged start to the game, Bellarmine took an 11-10 lead after the first quarter. But the second quarter was a good one for Decatur. The Gators outscored the Lions 22-16 during the eight minutes, including 12 points in the final 2:21 of the first half. Senior Darious Walker tallied all 13 of his points in the first two quarters.

The Lions, who won the Narrows League, took their first lead of the second half, 49-48, on Jordan Cain’s layup with 6:20 left in the fourth quarter. Decatur couldn’t get the lead back down the stretch, trailing by as many as five.

Bellarmine junior Abdul Gaddy, who is headed to the University of Arizona, had 26 points and 12 rebounds for the Lions. Bradley added 19 points.

Tibbs led the Gators with 20 points, hitting eight of 21 shots. Walker had 13 points and seven rebounds. Tibbs and Walker, both first-team, All-SPSL North Division selections, are the lone starters Olson will lose to graduation.

“Darious and Marcus have been unbelievable for this program,” Olson said. “They left it out there.”

But the Gators will return a lot of talent next season, led by junior point guard Michael Hale. Hale was named second-team all tournament, along with Tibbs. Also back will be freshman Jerron Smith, junior Cam Schilling and sophomore Jordan McCloud.

Smith was ultra-impressive against Bellarmine with 15 points, Schilling was the Gators’ defensive stopper all season and McCloud’s putback with 1.3 seconds left beat Shadle Park in the quarterfinals Thursday, 63-61.

In addition to Tibbs and Walker, twin brothers Kevin and K.J. Hong will also graduate.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565,

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