Sports

Federal Way survives Puyallup, 45-38

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

It wasn’t the prettiest basketball game ever played. But any win is a good win at this point of the season and the Federal Way Eagles will take them any way they can.

The Eagles (19-5) ended the Puyallup Vikings’ season Saturday night with a hard-fought 45-38 win in a loser-out game at the West Central/Southwest District Tournament at Auburn High School.

Saturday’s victory, the Eagles’ second over Puyallup (17-7) in three games this season, came just two night’s after a devastating double-overtime loss to the Prairie Falcons in the first-round of the ultra-competitive district tournament. A loss that knocked Federal Way into the loser’s bracket.

“We just knew that we had to come back and win,” said senior guard Morris Anderson, who had 11 points. “We are still going for a championship.”

“We needed to bounce back,” said junior wing Earnest Williams, who scored a game-high 19 points. “Coach told us that a good team bounces back and we didn’t want to let our seniors down.”

The Puyallup win sets up another match-up with a familiar foe from the South Puget Sound League South Division. The Eagles, who tied with Bethel for the league title, will take on the Curtis Vikings at 8 p.m. tonight at Rogers High School in another loser-out district game. A win tonight would give Federal Way two chances to qualify for its third Class 4A state tournament in the last four seasons.

The Eagle-Curtis winner will take on the winner of a game between Mount Tahoma (13-10) and Kent-Meridian (18-5) Friday at 8 p.m. at Mount Tahoma High School for the district’s sixth-seed to state.

To beat Curtis, you have to stop the Vikings’ talented point guard — Isaiah Thomas. The sophomore led the SPSL in scoring at just over 25 a game.

The 5-foot-8 Thomas scored over 20 points in 18 of Curtis’ 23 games and is on a roll in his last six outings — averaging just under 30.

The Eagles were able to limit Thomas during their two regular season SPSL South games — both Federal Way victories, as well as two of the most entertaining games in the league this year.

In their first meeting of the year, Federal Way withstood a late Viking comeback to get a 71-68 victory Dec. 17. Anderson played a huge defensive game against Thomas, limiting the sophomore to a season-low 10 points.

In their second game, Jan. 28, the Eagles trailed by as many as 16 points in the first half before rallying for a 74-71 overtime win.

Thomas did score 24, but 16 of them came from the free-throw line in a game dominated by foul shots. The two teams shot 76 total free throws with Anderson (16.3 points a game) and Williams (16.8) combining to shoot 24-of-31 from the stripe.

Williams was the difference down the stretch Saturday night against Puyallup. The 6-foot-4 junior wing hit three shots midway through the fourth quarter that kept the Eagles in the game. A Jordan Riippi jumper with 6:22 left in the game gave the Vikings a 35-32 lead. But Williams tallied Federal Way’s next seven points to put the Eagles up 39-37 with 2:21 left. Sophomore Terrell Smith iced the game with a pair of free throws with 28.1 seconds left, making it a two-possession game for the Vikings, 43-38.

“Puyallup is always a tough team to play,” Williams said. “They play tough defense.”

Saturday’s game looked like it was going to be a back-and-forth offensive battle during the opening quarter of play. Federal Way used its lethal 3-point shooting and Puyallup hit jumper after jumper, en route to an entertaining 22-18 first-quarter lead by the Eagles.

Federal Way hit 5 of 7 from behind the arc in the first eight minutes, including two each from Anderson and Williams. Anderson tallied the first nine points of the game for the Eagles.

But that was as good as it would get for the offensive-minded fan. The final three quarters turned into a grind-it-out defensive battle between two teams that wanted their seasons to continue.

The Eagles’ offense had an extremely tough time in the second quarter. Puyallup held the high-flying Eagles, who average over 70 points a game, to no points through the first 7:57 of the quarter. Williams hit a running left-handed lay-up with three seconds left for the Eagles only second-quarter points.

But the Vikings weren’t much better. Puyallup tallied just eight points in the quarter, including a 3/4-court, 3-point heave by Jordan Riippi as the halftime buzzer sounded. The Riippi prayer gave the Vikings a 26-24 lead.

Puyallup was led by the 14 points of 6-5 junior Austin Kilpatrick. Federal Way’s Dwayne Alo finished with six points on two straight 3-pointers late in the third quarter to help the Eagles turn a five-point deficit into a 32-31 lead entering the fourth.

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

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