Battle in Seattle: Gators and Eagles will clash at 2009 King Holiday Hoopfest

Decatur and Federal Way.

The two high schools are only separated by three miles, but their basketball programs have been pretty much mirror images over the past two decades.

Since 1990, the Gators have played in nine state tournaments, compared to the Eagles’ eight. Both teams have played and lost in a state championship game to an unbeaten opponent — Federal Way fell to Ferris last year and the Gators were bested by Sehome in 1996.

So it’s easy to figure out that when the two teams get together on the court, the games are usually stuff of legend.

The Gators (10-1) and Eagles (11-1) will play for the only time during the regular season at 2:30 p.m. Monday at the Bank of America Arena at the University of Washington.

The non-league game between the second- and fourth-ranked teams in the state will take place at the 2009 King Holiday Hoopfest, which is a seven-game extravaganza featuring several of the top teams on the West Coast.

The Federal Way-Decatur matchup came about after a conversation between Decatur head coach Kevin Olson and the event’s scheduler, Steve Turcotte. Decatur played at Turcotte’s Les Schwab Shootout last year at Bellevue Community College.

“I told him that we were switching divisions for ‘08-09 and (Federal Way) was remaining in the (SPSL North),” Olson said. “Therefore, we would not be playing in the regular season. So I told him that we should play it at UW at the MLK.”

Wish granted.

“I was promoting the idea, so yes, I wanted us to do it,” Olson continued. “The only thing against it is that I love the rivalry games at our own gyms, because the atmosphere is electric. Federal Way’s gym is small so it has been selling out and ours has been close to reaching maximum capacity.”

Monday’s game will mark the first time the two basketball powerhouses have played each other since meeting in last year’s Class 4A state semifinal inside the Tacoma Dome.

Federal Way won in overtime, 69-60, to earn the school’s first berth into the state championship game.

“I haven’t been talking about it much because we have league games that have an impact on playoff positioning that are more important right now,” Olson said. “And the moment you look past someone, you get beat. But I’m sure come Sunday night, we’ll be getting pretty excited about the matchup. It always is fun to be a part of such an intense, emotional game.”

Emotions might be running even a little bit hotter Monday. The game will also mark the first time Federal Way senior point guard Michael Hale will face his former teammates.

Hale wore the blue and gold of Decatur during the first three years of his high school basketball career before transferring to Federal Way during spring break last year.

“Michael played for us for three years, he was the starting point guard for our teams that went to the state tournament the last two years,” Olson said. “So to see him wearing another uniform, yeah, that will be very strange. But once the game starts there won’t be any thoughts about that. We’ll be focusing on representing Decatur vs. our rivals.”

Hale is currently averaging 17.4 points a game for the Eagles. He is one of four players for Federal Way averaging in double digits. Junior Cole Dickerson leads the team in scoring at 17.6 points, Jeffrey Forbes is chipping in 13.7 and senior Andre Barrington is at 10 points a game.

Decatur is being led by fifth-year senior Marcus Tibbs, who is averaging 16.4 points, six assists and three steals per game. Sophomore Jerron Smith, brother of former Federal Way star Terrell Smith, is leading the Gators at 16.8 a game and junior Jordan McCloud is scoring 13.4 points.

The King Holiday Hoopfest kicks off at 9:30 a.m. with Class 1A powers Bellevue Christian and King’s squaring off. The seven-game event will cap at 7:30 p.m. with Class 4A No. 1-ranked Garfield against 3A No. 1-ranked Franklin.

Rainier Beach and Dominguez, from Los Angeles, will meet in the 4 p.m. game. The Kentwood girls will take on Bellarmine Prep in the only girls game at 11 a.m., while the Bellarmine Prep boys, featuring All-American Abdul Gaddy, will take on Bellevue, which is ranked 18th on the West Coast, at 6 p.m. The Kentwood boys will play Bothell at 12:30 p.m.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students with ASB and seniors.

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