Gators shoot their way by Eagles to open district tourney

By CASEY OLSON, The Mirror

The Decatur Gators can now say they are the best boys basketball team in Federal Way. The Gators downed crosstown rival Federal Way, 67-61, Wednesday night in the opening round of the Class 4A West Central District Tournament.

The victory not only moved Decatur into a winner-to-state game last night (after press time) against the third-ranked Bellarmine Prep Lions in the district quarterfinals, but also gave them a 2-1 advantage over the Eagles in the season series. The two teams’ split their two South Puget Sound League North Division regular-season contests, both winning on their home floors.

And that was the case again Wednesday night. The Gators (18-5) earned the right to host the first-round game by garnering the SPSL’s fourth seed into the postseason. Federal Way (15-6) finished seventh in the league and will now have to win three straight loser-out games to get back to the Class 4A state tournament. The Eagles took on Beamer last night in the loser’s bracket. The Titans (10-11) lost to Bellarmine in the opening round of districts.

Wednesday’s win over Federal Way improved the Gators’ home record to 10-1. Decatur’s lone loss in the Gator Dome came against the Auburn Trojans at the Harbour Homes Holiday Classic over the Christmas break. The game was played in a pretty sterile environment, which didn’t feature the raucous student section.

The Gator players just seem to shoot the ball with a lot more confidence at home, especially from behind the 3-point line. Decatur hit an torrid 11 of 17 attempts from 3-point range Wednesday and connected on 24 of 36 field goals.

Decatur’s long-range shooting was the key, but it was three-straight dunks late in the second quarter that proved to be the turning point of the game.

Trailing 22-21, Decatur senior guard Marcus Tibbs grabbed an errant Federal Way pass with 3:21 to go in the first half and rammed home a two-handed dunk. On the Eagles’ next possession, Tibbs stole another pass and this time, rocked a one-hander. Senior Darious Walker followed with the Gators’ third dunk 30 seconds later on a pass from K.J. Hong to give Decatur a commanding 27-22 advantage.

The Gators’ rode that momentum into the third quarter when they hit five 3-pointers, including three by junior forward Cam Schilling, in the first 5:24 of the second half. The last one, by Tibbs, gave Decatur a 49-30 lead. Tibbs finished with 15 points, six assists, six rebounds and five steals.

But Federal Way didn’t throw in the towel.

The Eagles, who were led by the 15 points of sophomore Isiah Umipig, chipped away at the Gators’ lead and cut it down to 60-54 with 1:46 to play, thanks to Decatur missing the front ends of a pair of one-and-one, free-throw attempts.

But Tibbs got the Gators back an track when he hit a running jumper and converted a three-point play to ice the game. Decatur junior point guard Michael Hale finished with a game-high 18 points to lead four Gators in double figures. Freshman Jerron Smith tallied 14 points, including 10 in the first half, and Walker chipped in 11.

Federal Way also had four in double figures. Senior Aaron Broussard and sophomore Cole Dickerson both scored 12 and junior Jeff Forbes had 10.

At Bellarmine Prep 69, Beamer 55

The best team in the Narrows League was a little too much for the Todd Beamer Titans Wednesday night in the opening round of the West Central District Tournament in Tacoma.

The third-ranked Lions (20-2) got 32 points from Avery Bradley and 17 from Abdul Gaddy on their home floor to knock Beamer into the loser’s bracket. The Titan’s played a loser-out game last night against Federal Way (after press time). Beamer will now have to win three games in a row to qualify for its first-ever Class 4A State Basketball Tournament.

Beamer (10-13) was led by the 25 points of senior point guard Dakin Wanquist. The Titans entered their second straight district tournament as the ninth seed from the SPSL.

Bellarmine jumped out to a 31-25 lead at halftime and extended it to 44-31 after the third quarter. Andrew Winton chipped in 16 points for Beamer.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565,

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