Sports

Mount Tahoma star sinks Decatur boys

"You had to wonder how long it would last.How long could a young Decatur squad handle the in-your-face pressure of a talented Mount Tahoma squad?How long would University of Washington-bound C.J. Massingale be held virtually in check?Three quarters was the answer to both those questions.For 24 minutes, the Gators limited their turnovers and allowed Massingale to score just eight points.The final eight minutes, however, belong to the 6-foot, 4-inch Mount Tahoma senior. Massingale scored 19 of his game-high 27 points in the fourth quarter, leading the visiting T-birds to a 75-68 non-league victory Tuesday night.“That’s what I’m supposed to do. I’m a team leader,” Massingale said of his fourth-quarter offensive explosion.The Gators knew they couldn’t keep Massingale down for the entire game, expecting him to break out eventually.“I didn’t think he’d break out like that,” said Decatur senior Nick Moxley, who lead the Gators with 20 points. Massingale made his first seven shot in the fourth quarter, including two three-point plays and a 3-point shot.“I had him locked down in the first half,” said Decatur senior Tyrese Shields, who combined with Marcus Henderson to hold Massingale to just 3-for-8 shooting through three quarters. “What can you say, he’s a D-1 (division-I) player.”Decatur coach Keith Cooper couldn’t help but admire Massingale’s performance.“He took over the game like great players do,” Cooper said. “He’s a legit Pac-10 player.”During the first three quarters, Massingale and the T-Birds were anything but dominant. The T-Birds administered heavy pressure on the Gator ball handlers with little success. Decatur broke through the Mount Tahoma defense to hit 7-for-13, and build a 20-9 lead by the end of the first quarter.The Gators maintained that lead throughout the second quarter on the strength of five points from Chris Conner and another four and an assist from Moxley.“I was surprised they did,” Massingale said of how the Gators handled the pressure. “We had some film of their first game and they looked kind of suspect.”The Gators’ unraveling began when senior Virgil Brown was lost for the final 10 minutes with a sprained ankle. His injury came just after he hit a 3-pointer, giving him 14 points. Even after Brown left the game, Decatur used a 9-0 run late in the third quarter to build a 52-35 advantage. Moxley’s third 3-pointer 34 seconds into the fourth quarter pumped the lead up to 17 points. Without Brown, who finished with 13 points, the Gators lacked a defensive force in the middle.“We were getting good shots when we took care of the ball,” Cooper said. “We didn’t take care of it down the stretch.”Consecutive steals, capped by a layup and a dunk by Massingale, sparked the T-Birds’ comeback. Decatur scored just two more baskets. After that, their remaining nine points came at the free-throw line.Mount Tahoma’s Jason Townsend tied the score at 61-61 with a pair of free throws with 2:48 left in the game. The T-Birds took their first lead on a 3-point basket by Barret Williams, who finished with 21 points, with 2:29 remaining. A steal and layup by Massingale upped the lead to 66-63. The Gators regained the lead with four consecutive free throws from Ryan Wennerlind and Niko Nunogawa.A 3-point play by Williams and two free throws each by Williams and Massingale provided the winning edge for the T-Birds.“These are young, inexperienced kids playing against a very experienced team,” Cooper said. “I think a lot of our kids got tired. They had to do so much.”"

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