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King Holiday Hoopfest: Federal Way runs by Decatur, 71-63
Despite traveling 20 miles north on Interstate 5, Monday afternoon’s Federal Way-Decatur boys basketball match-up still had that backyard feel.
And just like they did the last time the two powerhouse programs met, the Federal Way Eagles came out on top. This time the Eagles ran by the Gators in the fourth quarter during Monday’s game at the 11th annual King Holiday Hoopfest inside the Bank of America Arena at the University of Washington, 71-63. It was the first time the two rivals played since last year’s Class 4A state semifinal inside the Tacoma Dome.
“That was a whole lot better than playing at Decatur, I’ll tell you that,” longtime Federal Way head coach Jerome Collins said with a smile. “But it’s always a big game. We just stepped up and made some shots.”
The game was the only regular-season meeting between the two schools after Federal Way moved into the South Puget Sound League North Division during the summer.
“It was a great game wherever it was played,” Federal Way senior guard Michael Hale said. “Basketball is basketball. We just need to play hard, especially in a rivalry game.”
The game between the third- and fourth-ranked teams in Class 4A lived up to all the hype during the first three quarters Monday afternoon. But the ultra-quick and athletic Eagles proved too much for the Gators down the stretch.
The win moved third-ranked Federal Way to 12-2 on the season and the loss dropped Decatur to 11-2.
After a Jordan McCloud lay-up at the third quarter buzzer tied the game at 52-52 entering the final eight minutes, the Eagles opened the fourth quarter with a 10-4 run to take a commanding 62-56 lead. A 3-pointer by Decatur’s Jerron Smith with 46 seconds to play cut the lead to 66-63, but that was as close at it would get.
“It was a high-energy game,” said Federal Way junior Cole Dickerson, who finished with 17 points. “We just needed to have a chip on our shoulders and go out and play.”
The game featured several subplots, but none were more evident than Federal Way’s Hale playing against his old teammates. Hale transferred to Federal Way last year after playing his first three seasons for the Gators.
Things started off a little shaky for the 5-foot-9 Hale. The Eagles’ leading scorer didn’t tally his first points until early in the second quarter. But the senior shook off the slow start, and some taunting from the Decatur crowd, to finish with a team-high 20 points, including 10 of Federal Way’s first 13 points in the second half.
“Some of it was anxiety,” Collins said. “We told him we were going to run some stuff for him. He was the difference early in the second half. He was just kind of out of rhythm early.”
The Eagles also got solid contributions and senior guards Andre Barrington (13 points) and Jeffrey Forbes (10 points), especially on the defensive side of the ball. Forbes spent most of the day guarding Decatur’s two-time, All-SPSL guard Marcus Tibbs, holding him to just 12 points.
“We really wanted to limit his touches,” Collins said of Tibbs. “You can’t really stop ballplayers like him. Jeffrey did a great job on him.”
Decatur hung right with the Eagles in the first half, despite some sloppy play trying to break Federal Way’s full-court press. The Gators trailed by just one point after the first quarter, 15-14, and at halftime, 34-33.
Decatur ended the game shooting 58.1 percent from the field but were hampered by 25 turnovers, compared to only 12 by the Eagles.
McCloud, a 6-foot-5 forward, finished with 20 points and, along with Smith, proved to be match-up problems for the Eagles. Smith finished with a game-high 22 points, including five 3-pointers, and his dunk late in the first half gave Decatur their biggest lead of the game, 30-25. He was 10 for 13 from the field.
McCloud ended the game 10 for 10 from the field and also grabbed 13 rebounds.
The win over the Gators came just two days after the Eagles lost their second South Puget Sound League North Division game of the season Saturday night to the second-ranked Kentwood Conquerors, 52-50. The loss dropped the Eagles (8-2 in league) into a second-place tie in the division with Auburn and Kentridge, one game behind Kentwood.
“We have got to get over (the loss to Kentwood),” Hale said. “We can’t dwell on the old stuff.”
Despite the loss to Federal Way, the Gators still sit in a first-place tie in the SPSL South Division with the Puyallup Vikings and play two huge league games next week. Decatur will host Puyallup Friday night and the third-place Curtis Vikings (8-2) Tuesday.
“It was fun,” Tibbs said of the game. “We know we can beat them. We just need to get a little better.”