Sports

Sports Gravy

"Lazy basketball scoreboard operators around the South Puget Sound League cringe in fear when they see Niko Nunogawa, Matt Englund or Michelle Morse walk into the gym for pre-game warmups - they know it's going to be a busy night. Every time these players take the court they light up the scoreboard like a Christmas tree during a power surge. With electricity in short supply around the Northwest these days, conservationists fearing blackouts would be wise to bench these shooting stars. Most coaches, however, only dream about having such dominant talent on their roster. Nunogawa, a 6-foot-5 senior post from Decatur, leads all boys in scoring in the South Puget Sound League, North and South Divisions combined. Englund, a 6-foot-1 junior guard from Jefferson, is second in scoring. Nunogawa is averaging 23.56 points in nine league games for a total of 212 points. Englund is averaging 21 points per game after 10 contests with a total of 210 points. Morse, a 5-foot-6 junior guard from Jefferson, leads all girls in scoring with an average of 21.3 points per game after 10 games for a total of 213 points. Not only do these three players lead all scorers in the SPSL, they also have scored more points than any player in either division of the nearby Narrows League or the Pierce County League.Watching them play, it's easy to see why. Nunogawa has a huge inside presence for the Gators. As he posts up, his teammates look to him as a reliable target. If he gets the ball, it's an almost guaranteed layup. Like Kozmo.com, Nunogawa always delivers. He is even more dangerous when he is left unguarded outside of 3-point range. On defense he has more blocks than a preschool play area. Englund sparks his Raider team with slashing drives to the hoop, and more recently, he's learned the benefits of generosity - dishing off passes to open teammates. Englund is often found hanging in the corner out past the three point arch, waiting for a pass that opens him up to drain a 3-pointer. When the game is on the line, Englund can take over with steals on defense that usually result in coast-to-coast fastbreaks. Morse leads her team by example. The Raiders aren't the tallest group ever to don basketball jerseys, but they are among the scrappiest. The run-and-gun Raiders use their speed on offense and defense to run all over opponents, and the main cog in that wheel is Morse. She scored a school-record 33 points in the league-opener against Spanaway Lake, thanks largely to her ability to knock down 3-pointers like a maniac. She also has nerves of steel, winning more than one game this season on a last-second shot.Adding to the mix of hot-handed shooters from Federal Way is the senior duo of Tui Avaava and Virgil Matthews at Federal Way High School. Matthews is the SPSL's fifth leading scorer, averaging 17.4 points per game, and Avaava is eighth on the list with an average of 16.5 points per game. Matthews and Avaava team up not only with leadership on offense, but also with suffocating defense. I could write for hours about these players, but you really need to attend a game and see their skills in person. Just two weeks are left in the regular season and the race for the final playoff spots is just beginning. "

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