Sports

On McCloud nine: Gators take out Snohomish and Shadle Park

By CASEY OLSON, The Mirror

The Decatur Gators have no shortage of star power on their roster.

But Jordan McCloud wasn’t one of them entering the Class 4A State Boys Basketball Tournament.

Well, McCloud is now.

The 6-foot-5 forward tallied the biggest two points of his career Thursday night with 1.3 seconds remaining to give Decatur a 55-53 win over the Shadle Park Highlanders. McCloud grabbed an errant 3-pointer by junior Michael Hale, rose up and banked in a putback layup to break the tie. Hale intercepted the ensuing Shadle Park inbounds pass at mid-court to seal the monumental victory inside the Tacoma Dome.

The win put the Gators into Friday night’s state semifinal against their ultimate rival — Federal Way — with a berth into the Class 4A title game on the line (after press time).

While players like Hale, Darious Walker and Marcus Tibbs were piling up points, rebounds and assists, McCloud was busy trying to rack up some playing time this year.

During the regular season, McCloud played sparingly in 21 games and scored a total of 56 points. And it was just happen-stance that he was even in the game Thursday night. Tibbs, the Gators’ leading scorer, picked up two ticky-tack fouls in the matter of 20 seconds to foul out with 6:17 remaining.

The absence of Tibbs could have been disastrous for the Gators. After rolling out to a nine-point lead late in the first half, the Highlanders fought back in the third quarter to grab a 46-43 lead heading into the final eight minutes Thursday night.

“We are just playing like we did all season,” Walker said. “We expect to win.”

The loss was Shadle Park’s (22-5) first this season to a team other than the undefeated and No. 1-ranked Ferris Saxons. The Highlanders lost four times to Ferris.

Hale led the Gators (22-6) with 20 points, including 13 in the decisive second half. Before he fouled out, Tibbs chipped in 17 points and freshman Jerron Smith tallied 12 for the Gators during the game, which featured nine ties and six lead changes.

Decatur took control of the contest during the second quarter. After playing Shadle Park to a 10-10 tie through the first eight minutes, the Gators went on an 11-3 run to grab a commanding 21-13 lead midway through the second quarter and led 29-21 at halftime.

Tibbs paced Decatur in the first half with 10 points on 4 of 11 shooting, including a pair of 3-pointers.

The Gators were also helped in the first half by the off-shooting night from Shadle Park’s leading scorer — Zach Humphrey. The 5-11 guard finished the first half with no points.

But he heated up in the second half to get the Highlanders back in the game. Humphrey tallied all 18 of his points in the third and fourth quarters on 6-of-8 shooting from the field, including 4 of 5 from behind the 3-point line.

Decatur also won despite their first-team, All-South Puget Sound League forward, Darious Walker, struggling with foul trouble all game. Walker, who tallied 27 of the Gators’ 49 points during their first-round win Wednesday over Snohomish, finished with just two points against Shadle Park. Walker did grab seven rebounds while playing just 19 minutes.

The Gators were also outscored 15-1 at the free-throw line by the Highlanders.

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Decatur 49, Snohomish 39 (Wednesday)

Walker doesn’t consider himself a morning person.

“I’m really more of an afternoon person,” Walker said.

But the 6-foot-5 forward proved himself wrong with a dominating performance in a 49-39 win over the Snohomish Panthers in the opening game of the Class 4A Boys Basketball State Tournament Wednesday. The two teams tipped off at 9 a.m.

“I expected us to be more sluggish,” said Walker, who scored 27 points on 12 of 14 shooting. “We are not used to waking up that early. I woke up at 5 a.m.”

Walker took advantage of Snohomish’s defense in the fourth quarter, when he tallied 15 of his points. The Panthers entered the final eight minutes of Wednesday’s game trailing by nine points, 29-20, and were forced to do something they normally don’t do — full-court press.

The much taller and slower Panthers couldn’t force Decatur’s spectacular guards — Hale and Tibbs — into any turnovers and pretty much left Walker uncovered. The defense resulted in several easy lay-ups for Walker, who scored 17 of the Gators’ final 20 points in the game.

“They started pressing and they were struggling a little bit,” Olson said.

Tibbs’, Decatur’s leading scorer all season, finished with just eight points and six rebounds and Hale chipped in nine points and six assists. Walker also added seven rebounds, helping Decatur outrebound the much-taller Panthers, 35-23.

“I was just playing like my coach was telling me to do,” Walker said.

Snohomish shot just 37 percent from the field (16-for-43) and turned the ball over 16 times. The 39 points was a season low. Senior center Zach Wilde led the Panthers with 17 points and seven rebounds. The 6-foot-6 senior was 8 of 18 from the field.

Brad Shaw, the Panthers’ leading scorer, scored 13 and grabbed five rebounds but was just 4 of 12 shooting, including 3 of 8 from behind the 3-point line.

The Gators seemed to be the fresher team for the 9 a.m. tipoff in a rematch from the first round of last year’s state tournament, which Decatur also won. The Gators rolled out to a 10-3 lead with two minutes remaining in the quarter and led 12-5 after the first eight minutes.

But Snohomish fought back early in the second quarter, putting together a little 6-0 run to claw back to within one point, 12-11. Decatur, however, followed with a 6-0 run of its own, to take control of the game. The Panthers didn’t get closer than four points the rest of the contest.

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

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