Sports

Federal Way bounced at districts by Curtis

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

This was going to be Federal Way’s year.

The Eagle boys basketball team came into the 2004-05 season with one of the most talented rosters, from top to bottom, in recent memory.

And Federal Way didn’t disappoint during the regular season. The Eagles, who were ranked in the top-five for most of the season, rolled to their first South Puget Sound League South Division championship since the days of Michael Dickerson and seemed to be playing their best basketball entering the postseason.

The Eagles had won 10-straight games to end the SPSL South 16-2 and seemed primed for a run at the school’s first state boys basketball championship.

But things can change in a heartbeat.

The Eagles (19-6) dropped three of their five playoff games, including a 77-71 loss to the Curtis Vikings Wednesday night at the West Central/Southwest District Tournament at Rogers High School. The loss ended Federal Way’s season two wins short of next week’s Class 4A State Championships. The Eagles had beaten Curtis (18-6) twice during the regular season.

“This year was supposed to be the year,” said senior point guard Elon Langston. “But it didn’t end the way we wanted it to.”

The Vikings seemed to be a step quicker than Federal Way all night long. The Eagles jumped out to a 6-0 lead to start the game, before Curtis responded with a 17-2 run to take a 21-10 lead early in the second quarter.

Federal Way cut the lead to five late in the first half, but that was as close as it would get. The Vikings, led by super-sophomore Isaiah Thomas, hit big shot after big shot, never allowing the Eagles to claw within striking distance. Thomas finished with 36 points.

“We just couldn’t chip away at them,” said senior captain C.J. Green. “We got back into the game several times, but couldn’t get over the hump.”

Curtis led 32-24 at the half and 51-41 entering the fourth quarter. A 9-0 run by Federal Way midway through the final period got the Eagles within seven, 59-52. But two straight layups by Alex Seymour pushed the Curtis lead to 11 points.

“It was a tough game,” junior Earnest Williams said.

Federal Way was playing shorthanded, thanks to a flu bug. The Eagles third-leading scorer and tallest starter, sophomore Terrell Smith, missed the game and several others, including Morris Anderson, Anwar Asadi, Williams, Jon Flood and Elon Langston weren’t feeling 100 percent.

“Half the team has the flu,” said Asadi. “But we can’t use that as an excuse. They had the intensity and took it to us.”

The Eagles couldn’t have asked for a better start to the game Wednesday night.

Federal Way’s swarming defense forced four straight Curtis turnovers and held the Vikings to just one field-goal attempt during the first three minutes of the game.

But, at that point, Thomas started controlling the flow of the game.

The 5-foot-8 point guard tallied six of Curtis’ first eight points in a two-minute stretch to tie the game at 8-8. A Williams jumper with 2:50 left in the first quarter gave Federal Way their last lead of the game, 10-8. Curtis, led by seven more points by Thomas, proceeded to rattle off the 17-2 run.

“We just let Isaiah Thomas get off,” said Asadi. “It was Isaiah’s show.”

Thomas, the leading scorer in the South Puget Sound League at 25 points a game, scored in every way possible Wednesday — 3-pointers, lay ups, jump shots and from the free-throw line.

After their game-opening spurt, the Eagles’ offense could never get anything going all night long. Like they have all season, Federal Way relied on the 3-point shot, which wasn’t falling Wednesday. The Eagles also had no inside presence and were unable to score any “easy” baskets. Federal Way had to work hard on every offensive possession, while Curtis was getting numerous offensive rebound put-backs and layups.

“We came out alright,” said senior captain C.J. Green. “We got a little bit of life. But we lacked intensity from the beginning to the end. We’ve been doing that all season. We have intensity early and we can’t sustain that intensity throughout.”

That wasn’t the case for Curtis. The Vikings’ used their height advantage across the front line to dominate on the inside. Curtis’ 6-foot-5 Anthony Gibbs, 6-7 Chris Sprinker and 6-4 Alex Seymour controlled the rebounding battle, limiting the Eagles to just one shot on the offensive end.

“We just weren’t rebounding at all,” said Asadi, who led Federal Way in rebounds at seven a game. “We didn’t have any energy.”

The Eagles were led by 20 points from Williams, including 11 in a 30-point fourth quarter. Anderson finished with 16 before fouling out and senior Marcus Wright chipped in 15. Curtis’ C.J. Greene tallied 15 points.

The loss to the Vikings ended the Eagle careers of six seniors, who won Federal Way’s first SPSL South championship since 1993 this year when they tied with Bethel atop the 10-team league.

The biggest loss will be Anderson. The 6-4 guard averaged just over 16 points a game and always seemed to hit big shots for the Eagles. Anderson also led the team in assists and shot an amazing 54 percent from behind the 3-point line (52 for 96).

Also gone will be Asadi, Green, Langston, Wright and Flood.

“It’s been a good ride,” Langston said.

But Federal Way should return a ton of talent next season. Williams, the Eagles leading scorer at 17 points a game and one of the most athletic players in the state, will get a lot of looks next year from Division I colleges.

“It was a pretty fun season,” said Williams, who transferred to Federal Way from Foss before his junior year. “I think this is the best group of guys I’ve ever played with. My season starts (Thursday). I will be working out, trying to get better. I won’t be taking any time off.”

Williams is set to play with the prestigious Friends of Hoop team from Seattle during the summer. The 2004 Friends of Hoop roster included University of Washington-signees Jon Brockman (Snohomish) and Martell Webster (Seattle Prep), along with Kansas signee Micah Downs (Juanita) and Stanford commit Mitch Johnson (O’Dea).

Also back for the Eagles will be Smith, who averaged nine points as a sophomore, sharp-shooting junior Dwayne Alo (4 points a game) and sophomore point guard Gabriel Holman, among others.

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

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