Sports

Federal Way and Decatur roll into state basketball semifinals

Federal Way
Federal Way's Andre Barrington (left) and Isiah Umipig celebrate on the court after the Eagles upset the No. 2-ranked Franklin Quakers during Wednesday's opening round of the Class 4A State Boys Basketball Tournament in the Tacoma Dome.
— image credit: Casey Olson/The Mirror

By CASEY OLSON, The Mirror

It was a pair of games that most people thought they couldn’t win.

So it’s a good thing that the Federal Way boys basketball team and coaching staff didn’t listen to all those people.

The Eagles (20-6) pulled off an opening-day stunner at the Class 4A State Boys Basketball Tournament when they downed second-ranked Franklin inside the Tacoma Dome, 63-58, and followed that up with a workmanlike, 52-45, victory over third-ranked Lincoln Thursday.

The two wins set up a dream matchup in the state semifinals with the Decatur Gators Friday night (after press time). It also guaranteed that a Federal Way school district team will play in the state championship at 7 p.m. tonight. The Eagles have never played in a title game, while Decatur finished second in 1996.

“Everybody really made it seem that we couldn’t win,” said an ecstatic Jeff Forbes. “But this is the state tournament and anything can happen. We came out and played hard. It was just crazy. It felt so good. Coach told us that their ranking doesn’t matter.”

It was Forbes who cemented the first-round upset of Franklin, who hadn’t lost a game to a Washington opponent all season. The junior guard stepped to the free-throw line with 12.1 seconds remaining in the game and the Eagles clinging to a three-point lead, 61-58. Forbes calmly swished both attempts, setting off a frenzy in the crowd and on the court.

“It was a great game,” Forbes said.

Thursday’s victory over the West Central District champion Abes (23-5) wasn’t as exciting, but still impressive. Federal Way trailed by as many as 11 points in the second quarter before rallying in the second half.

The Eagles took their first lead of the since the opening minutes of the game with just 2.4 seconds remaining in the third quarter on a three-point play from senior Aaron Broussard to go up 38-36.

The Eagles never trailed again.

Broussard finished with 15 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead Federal Way. Forbes added 11 points, six rebounds and three steals.

The Abes cut the Eagles’ lead to one point three separate times during the fourth quarter. The last came with 29 seconds remaining in the game, 46-45, on a Royal Tee Lexing jumper.

But, like they did against Franklin, Federal Way was clutch down the stretch. The Eagles tallied the final six points of the contest to advance into the semis.

Sophomore point guard Isiah Umipig hit a pair of free throws to give Federal Way a 48-45 lead and then the Eagles stole the ensuing inbounds pass and Forbes converted the layup with just 13.7 seconds remaining, to extend the lead to five, 50-45.

Lincoln’s Turrell Smith missed a three and Forbes followed by converting two free throws to make the score final.

Lincoln was led by the 16 points and 11 rebounds of Kaleb Shelton. Lexing added 13 points for the Abes.

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Federal Way 63, Franklin 58 (Wednesday)

Forbes’ late free throws weren’t the only clutch shots Federal Way hit during the win over Franklin (22-3) Wednesday.

Broussard, who has already inked a national letter of intent to play in the fall at Seattle University, proved to be the unquestioned leader of a young Eagle squad.

Broussard, the only senior on Federal Way’s roster to play extended minutes, scored 10 of his 25 points in the fourth quarter, including a basket and two free throws in the final 36 seconds. The two free throws came with 21.9 seconds remaining and the Eagles leading 59-58.

“In crunch time, he made plays,” Federal Way head coach Jerome Collins said. “He flat-out made plays.”

From the opening tip, Federal Way played with a reckless abandon and didn’t look intimidated by Franklin in the slightest.

Franklin had not lost since late December, and the Quakers easily swept through the KingCo 4A Conference. Federal Way, on the other hand, finished up fourth in the South Puget Sound League North Division and had to win three loser-out games at the West Central District Tournament to even qualify for state.

“They just continue to work hard,” Collins said. “We got an unfortunate draw at West Central Districts and we had a tough road again. But it gave us a renewed focus. Our kids just made some plays down the stretch and we wanted it.”

“The credit goes to those guys,” Franklin coach Jason Kerr said. “The Federal Way kids played harder, more physical, more together and more relentless than we could come back to combat against.”

The athletic Eagles led Franklin, who had won two of the last five state championships, for most of the first half. Despite missing numerous layups and open jump shots, Federal Way led 16-14 after the first quarter and took a 29-28 lead at halftime on a last-second tip-in by Broussard.

But like any good team, Franklin made its run midway through the third quarter.

After a Broussard layup with 4:00 remaining in the third quarter gave the Eagles a 36-31 lead, the Quakers outscored Federal Way 14-2 in the next 2:58 to take a 45-38 lead with a minute left in the quarter.

It would have been easy for the Eagles to fold up their tent and bow down to the highly-favored Quakers. But Forbes wasn’t about to let that happen.

The junior connected on a pair of 3-pointers in the final 25.2 seconds of the third quarter to pull Federal Way within one, 45-44, entering the final eight minutes.

“I wasn’t hitting early,” Forbes said. “I just wasn’t feeling it. But my coach and my teammates told me to keep shooting.”

After going back and forth early in the fourth quarter, Federal Way tied the game at 51-51 after junior guard Andre Barrington was fouled on a 3-point attempt and calmly stepped to the line and made all three free throws.

Barrington’s three free throws were the start of a 9-0 run by the Eagles that gave them back the lead for good, 57-51.

Franklin narrowed the margin to one when Lavell White scored on a putback with 25 seconds remaining, making the score 59-58.

But Federal Way came right back with the four-straight huge free throws by Broussard and Forbes. The Eagles made their last nine free-throw attempts.

Franklin junior point guard Peyton Siva, who is being recruited by most major colleges in the nation, missed a 3-point attempt with 15 seconds left that would have tied the game.

Siva finished with 15 points and nine assists, but also had eight turnovers against the constant Federal Way pressure.

“We just wanted to stop Peyton’s penetration,” Forbes said. “We just wanted to contain him. He’s a great player.”

The Eagles forced the Quakers into 24 turnovers as a team.

“We have these days where they don’t show up,” Kerr said. “We’ve been lucky enough in those days, until today, to squeak out a win.”

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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