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Will it be great at state? Federal Way teams hope so
The 2008-09 edition of the Federal Way High School boys basketball team is loaded. The Eagles return four starters from a team that rolled into the school’s first-ever state championship game before losing to an unbeaten Ferris squad.
Federal Way also added three high-level transfers to the mix during the offseason, including Michael Hale, who was a first-team, All-South Puget Sound League North Division guard a season ago at Decatur. Many preseason polls have the Eagles as the No. 1-ranked team in Class 4A and as the prohibitive favorite to win the rugged nine-team SPSL North Division.
“There are a lot of people talking, but we haven’t won anything yet,” said longtime head coach Jerome Collins. “We are just taking it one game at a time and the whole goal is to get better as we go.”
The Eagles (21-7 last year) will be led by the returning foursome of Jeff Forbes, Cole Dickerson, Andre Barrington and Isiah Umipig, along with Hale.
Forbes should be the unquestioned leader on the court for Federal Way. The 6-foot senior has already signed a letter of intent to play at Eastern Washington University.
During the regular season, Forbes was Federal Way’s second-leading scorer at 12 points a game, behind graduated Aaron Broussard, and also shot 52 percent from the field and 50 percent from behind the 3-point line. Forbes also had 17 points during state tournament wins over Franklin and Decatur, and hit several clutch free throws during the postseason.
Forbes has also developed a reputation of being one of the better defenders and long-distance shooters in the SPSL, as well as the state, during his three seasons at Federal Way.
Dickerson, a 6-7 junior, has developed into a huge force in the SPSL. Last year, he averaged 10 points and eight rebounds a game and is already being courted by Pac-10 schools like the University of Washington, Washington State and Arizona.
Barrington brings toughness and defense to the Eagles. The 6-2 wing averaged 8.4 points a game last year and is headed to Washington State in the fall to play football. Umipig returns for his junior season, but probably won’t play until at least mid-December after suffering a high ankle sprain during the summer. The 6-0 Umipig averaged 7.4 points from his point guard position.
But Hale could be the X-factor this season for Federal Way. Last year, the 5-7 point guard averaged 14.2 points, three rebounds and five assists for Decatur. He scored in double figures in 22 games, including 26 against Beamer.
The Eagles also added 6-10 J.T. Koontz, who transfered from Oregon, and 6-6 Jaleel Williams, who came to Federal Way from Texas.
The Eagles’ run into the state championship game last year was an unexpected one. Federal Way finished fourth in the SPSL North behind Kentridge, Kentwood and Decatur and had to win three loser-out games at the West Central District Tournament to even qualify for state.
“Last year’s team did a great job, but we were a very young team,” Collins said. “The guys have been doing a good job of coming together as a team this year. We are still relatively young. A lot of these guys are going to be coming back again next year.”
Federal Way will be traveling to the prestigious Arizona Basketball Challenge over the Christmas Break. The elite-level, 16-team tournament will be played at Mesa Mountain View High School Dec. 26-28.
“We have a very good lineup this year,” said tournament director Marc Beasley. “This is our second year and we are very excited about having Federal Way down here.”
The 2008 Arizona Basketball Challenge will include 12 of the top teams from Arizona, as well as Utah’s Lone Peak High School, North Hollywood’s Harvard-Westlake and Sagemont High School from Weston, Fla.
The Eagles will also play in the Martin Luther King Holiday Hoopfest at the University of Washington on Jan. 19 against cross-district rival Decatur. The two teams won’t play during the regular SPSL season for the first time in recent memory with the Gators moving to the South Division. The last time Federal Way and Decatur played was inside the Tacoma Dome in the Class 4A state semifinals, which the Eagles won in overtime.
Federal Way opens its season on Friday night at home against Auburn Riverside.
The Gators have developed into one of the better basketball programs over the last few years. Decatur played in their second-straight state tournament a year ago, advancing into the semifinals before eventually ending up in sixth place.
The Gators ended the year 22-8 overall and 11-3 in the SPSL North, which was good for a three-way tie for first place with Kentwood and Kentridge.
Things should continue rolling for Decatur this year, thanks to the return of Marcus Tibbs, Jerron Smith and Cam Schilling. The threesome were all starters for the Gators a season ago.
The return of Smith and Schilling was expected for head coach Kevin Olson, but Tibbs’ coming back came as a surprise. The 6-1 guard was granted a fifth year of eligibility by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association last month.
Tibbs has had an ultra-impressive three-year career at Decatur, earning first-team, All-SPSL honors following both 2007 and 2008 seasons after leading the Gators in scoring both years.
Last season, Tibbs led Decatur in scoring at 18.3 points a game and scored in double figures in 28 of the Gators’ 30 games, including 12 20-point games. During the 2006-07 season, Tibbs averaged 17 points, five rebounds and nearly three assists a game.
Smith was one of the best freshman in the SPSL a season ago. The 6-3 guard averaged close to 10 points a game last season. Schilling was the Gators’ defensive stopper and a clutch 3-point shooter last year.
Olson will also be counting on 6-7 wing Jordan McCloud to provide some inside presence for the Gators. McCloud averaged three points a game last season. Other newcomers who could make and impact include 5-11 point guard Terrell Williams, 6-4 wing Anthony Williams, 6-4 post Kramer Stuth and 6-5 senior Vicktor Scheile, who transferred to Decatur from Georgia.
Curtis and Decatur look like the two teams to beat in the SPSL South. Curtis returns a bulk of their lineup from a season ago. The two teams will meet for the first time this season Dec. 16 in University Place.
Decatur opens its SPSL South regular season Friday at home against Spanaway Lake. The Gators will also host the Bill Riley Communities Holiday Classic at Decatur High School Dec. 29-30. The four-team tournament will include Decatur, Foss, Tahoma and Mariner.
The Titans have played at the West Central District Tournament the last two years, but are still looking for their first postseason win. This year, they will search for that elusive win with a new coach.
Decatur assistant Brent Brilhante takes over for Connie Richardson and has a talented lineup that should make a run at another postseason appearance. Beamer finished 7-7 in the SPSL South Division a season ago and 10-14 overall. The Titans lost to Bellarmine Prep and Federal Way at last year’s district tournament.
“We should compete for a playoff spot,” Brilhante said.
The Titans will have to do it this season without their three leading scorers from a season ago. Dakin Wanquist, Andrew Winton and Alex Hart all graduated.
Beamer will be led by sophomore guard Napa Mefi. As a freshman, Mefi averaged 6.5 points and scored in double figures three times.
But the Titans do have a lot of talented newcomers, led by 6-9 Kevin Davis. Davis, a senior, played with Friends of Hoop, one of the elite AAU teams in the Seattle area, during the summer. Also new to the program are seniors Chase Hildebrandt and Dominique Hebert and juniors Vladi Aficiuc and Connor Flanigan and sophomore Max Aficiuc.
“Experience will be our weakness,” Brilhante said. “We just need to do everything with a business-like approach, preparing to win at practice and in the classroom,” Brilhante said.
The Titans kick off their SPSL South season on Friday night on the road at Emerald Ridge.
This might be the year for the Thomas Jefferson Raiders. Second-year coach David Stone brings back two of the most talented players in the SPSL North Division in seniors Spenser Sydney and Xavyr Moss and also feature a strong supporting class.
The Raiders struggled during the SPSL North regular season a season ago, finishing just 2-12 in league play after winning four of their first five preseason games.
But Sydney and Moss are the real deal and could lead the Raiders into the postseason for the first time since the 1980s. Sydney, a 6-4 wing, led TJ in scoring a season ago at nearly 14 points a game. He had four games with at least 20 points, including a season-high 27 against Kentlake.
Moss averaged 11.4 points a game and scored in double figures 10 times during the season, including a pair of 22-point games. Moss is a 6-3 guard.
Stone will also be counting on newcomer Cramer Doughty, a 6-2 senior guard, seniors Ishmail Yusuf and Joe Satterwhite, along with junior Eric Radford to lighten the load on Sydney and Moss.
The Raiders open their SPSL North Division season at home Friday night against the Auburn Trojans.
Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, email@example.com