Sports

Federal Way finds a way; earns 4A berth

By CASEY OLSON

Sports Editor

The Federal Way High boys basketball team feels pretty comfortable in the underdog role. Maybe a little too comfortable.

The Eagles improved their record in loser-out games to a perfect 8-0 in the last two seasons following a 48-45 victory over the Gig Harbor Tides Saturday at the West Central District tournament at the University of Puget Sound. Federal Way will be making its second-straight Class 4A state tournament appearance, starting today at the Tacoma Dome.

“We don’t really like being in those (must-win) games,” said coach Jerome Collins. “But we like winning them. The kids have done a really good job. I don’t know if it causes us to concentrate more or what. We have been really blessed to come through in those games. And what is weird about it is it isn’t nerve-racking at all. We just focus on what needs to be done.”

The Eagles will again get to play the role of spoiler when they take on the No. 1-ranked and undefeated Mead Panthers from Spokane at 5 p.m. today in Tacoma. If the Eagles win, they will face the winner of a game between Lincoln and Eastlake at 7 p.m. Thursday. The two losers will play at noon.

Mead brings in a perfect 25-0 record and one of the best players in the state. The Panthers’ 6-foot-9 senior forward Adam Morrison has already committed to play next season for Gonzaga and is averaging 29.7 points a game for Mead.

“He is just a great player,” said Collins. “Obviously, the kid can play basketball and put the ball in the hole. He can play inside and out. We have our work cut out for us.”

Collins also said another factor in Mead’s success this season is the fact that a bulk of their lineup has been playing basketball together since the fourth grade.

“You just have to deal with the cards you are dealt,” Collins said. “We are just going to have to work hard.”

The Eagles’ hard work paid off Saturday night at the University of Puget Sound with their win over Gig Harbor to earn the seventh, and final, berth from the West Central District.

Federal Way battled back from five points down in the final 3:56 to earn the victory over the Tides, thanks to clutch play from veteran players.

Senior Myron Hennings made the crucial go-ahead shot on a runner down the lane for a 46-45 edge with one minute left.

With possession, Gig Harbor called a timeout with 14 seconds left in the game, but point guard Morgan Axton was stripped of the ball and Federal Way’s Darius Alo came up with the loose ball with 5.1 seconds left. Senior Andre Piper-Jordan was then fouled and sank two free throws with 2.4 seconds to go for the 48-45 lead.

“The kids had a real desire to get it done against Gig Harbor,” Collins said. “We really controlled the game until late and then the kids battled back. That says something about our kids.”

Piper-Jordan finished with 10 points. Senior Nate Sanchez finished with a game-high 17.

Federal Way was forced to beat Gig Harbor for the state tournament berth after losing a winner-to-state game Friday to Bethel. The Eagles struggled all night against the Braves, losing 73-57 at Auburn High School. The two teams had split their regular season matchups in the SPSL South, both winning on their home floors.

University of Oregon-bound quarterback Johnny DuRocher led the Braves’ balanced attack with 19 points, including 15 in the first half. Bethel advanced to state as the district’s No. 6 seed.

Hennings led Federal Way with 23 points and Sanchez, the Eagles’ main inside presence at 6-foot-7, was held in check with 14 points.

“That was really a tough game for us,” Collins said. “Bethel was real physical and we got into some foul trouble right away. Bethel shot the ball real well and when you are playing a quality team, you just can’t bury yourself at the beginning. They got the momentum and just kept going.”

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

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