Eagles still alive in SPSL tournament

The Federal Way boys basketball team kept its playoff hopes alive Thursday with a first-round win in the South Puget Sound League playoffs at Puyallup.

Federal Way beat Kent Meridian 65-61 to advance to the second round of the SPSL tournament.

“We didn’t have a good night shooting and we came out lackadaisical,” said Federal Way coach Jerome Collins. “But we hung in there and stayed in it with a chance to win down the stretch. I’m happy with our execution down the stretch.”

“It feels real good to get one game closer to West Central Districts,” said senior forward Brad Mahlstedt. “It’s a whole new atmosphere. We showed a lot of heart, a lot of discipline and a lot of poise. No one on our team thought for a second that we were going to lose. We don’t want to go home. We want one more game.”

The Eagles play against Kentridge (13-8) at 11 a.m. today in a loser-out game at Puyallup. The winner advances to the West Central District tournament as the No. 7 seed.

Against Kent Meridian, Federal Way trailed most of the game, but was able to hang close enough to win it at the end.

The game came down to free throws: Federal Way was six for eight from the line in the fourth quarter while Kent Meridian made just five of 13.

“Our discipline won us the game,” Mahlstedt said. “The other team was not disciplined.”

Andre Piper-Jordan led Federal Way with 18 points and five rebounds. Brandon Chavers had 16 points and Jason Carlson had 14 points, including four 3-pointers. Nate Sanchez finished with eight points and 12 rebounds.

“Down the stretch, Piper-Jordan just took over,” Collins said. “We were setting good off-the-ball screens to free our shooters, and we made the pass.”

Teddy Williams had four steals and four assists and Mahlstedt had four points, four rebounds and three steals.

In the first quarter, Kent Meridian jumped out to a 14-5 lead on three 3-pointers by senior guard Charles Isaac and led 20-11 when the period ended.

Federal Way started cold and missed five 3-pointers, but it was a different story in the second quarter. The Eagles started out quick with back-to-back 3-pointers by Carlson. Chavers also hit a 3-pointer, and Carlson hit another as the Eagles briefly took the lead.

Federal Way trailed 32-28 at the half.

“We struggled a lot in the first half, but we kept our composure the whole time,” Piper-Jordan said. “The second half we stepped it up. We passed the ball around a lot more and found the open man. We played defense better in the second half, too. We came together as a team toward the end. Next game, we gotta do that in the first half.”

In the second half, Federal Way took a 38-37 lead before Kent Meridian went on a 9-2 run led by two more 3-pointers from Isaac.

Federal Way kept the game within reach with five points from Piper-Jordan, including a 3-pointer to end the third quarter to pull the Eagles within three at 48-45.

Kent Meridian’s 6-foot-8 center George Irby started causing havoc against the Eagles in the fourth quarter, blocking three shots as Kent Meridian built a 54-47 lead.

“Their big guy caused problems for us,” Collins said. “The shots he blocked were shots we’d normally make.”

But again, the Eagles wouldn’t go away quietly.

Piper-Jordan hit a 3-pointer to make it a 54-52 game, then Sanchez grabbed an offensive rebound and made the put-back to tie the game at 54.

The game was tied at 59 with 1:47 left when Federal Way’s Williams made a steal and passed the ball ahead to a fast-breaking Mahlstedt for two points. Then Isaac airballed a 3-pointer and the momentum started to swing toward Federal Way.

Federal Way sealed the win as Piper-Jordan and Sanchez each hit both of their free throws in the final 30 seconds.

Federal Way is 13-8 on the season heading into today’s game.

“We need to come out with a lot of intensity and we need to listen to coach,” Chavers said.

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