Despite controlling much of the game, small mistakes and foul trouble down the stretch hurt the Federal Way Eagles’ chances of securing the win at the WIAA 4A boys state basketball title, and they fell to the Gonzaga Prep Bullpups, 54-52, Saturday at the Tacoma Dome.
While not the ending they were hoping for, the second-place finish in the state championship game caps a largely successful season for the Eagles (27-2), who cruised to an undefeated 14-0 record in North Puget Sound League Olympic play. In addition to undefeated Gonzaga Prep, their only other loss this season came to the Enumclaw Hornets in the West Central District championship game. At state, they picked up a 73-60 opening-day win over Curtis March 1. That was followed by a 62-53 win over Lewis and Clark, who had defeated Enumclaw in the quarterfinals, to send them into Saturday’s barnburner.
“It’s a tough thing to go undefeated,” coach Jerome Collins said after the game. “I thought we had control of the game for the most part.”
The Eagles led for much of the game behind the combined efforts of senior Marcus Allen and junior Jaden McDaniels, who each scored 14 points for the Eagles. Senior Etan Collins and junior Jalen Womack each added eight points, and seniors Jordan Magee and Isiah Hart rounded out the scoring efforts with four points.
Down by one after the first quarter, the Eagles found their rhythm in the second and put up 19 points to the Bullpups’ nine to take a 29-20 lead into the half.
Gonzaga Prep began to chip away at the Eagles lead in the third quarter, going on a 11-5 scoring run, which was capped by a 3-pointer by the Bullpups’ Liam Lloyd half way through the period. Still, it wasn’t until McDaniels picked up his fourth foul, sending him to the bench, with a little over a minute to play in the quarter that the tide turned.
“He had really got into a rhythm. It was a tough foul,” Jerome Collins said. “Foul or not, it was called, and it changed the complexity of the game.”
The Eagles still led 40-37 going into the fourth, but Gonzaga Prep knotted the score at 45 points with a little less over 4 minutes remaining and then took the lead for good on a key 3-pointer by Lloyd with 3:23 remaining. Down 50-47, with 1:53 left in the fourth quarter, the Eagles missed four defensive rebounding opportunities to regain possession of the ball, which ate up 1:25 off the clock. The Eagles made the most of the remaining 28 seconds, and Womack hit a 3-pointer with less than 10 seconds left on the clock to bring the score to within one point in favor of the Bullpups. Another Bullpup free throw, however, with 2 seconds remaining gave Womack just enough time to launch a 3-point shot from deep in the field, which bounced off the backboard at the buzzer.
“I think our kids fought hard,” Jerome Collins said.
He said the missed rebounding opportunities and foul trouble made the difference in the game.
“One play here and there would have changed it,” he said.
McDaniels, however, said the Eagles’ defense cost them the game.
“We just didn’t play defense,” he said. “They just won.”
Etan Collins said the team had high expectations going in, so the loss was tough.
“I think everyone in our locker room would tell you we thought we were going to win it,” the senior said.
Jerome Collins said, however, he was pleased with how hard his players worked and the effort they gave this season.
“I’m just proud of these guys,” he said.
Jerome Collins said, while the team is heartbroken at the moment, he knows everyone will rebound in the coming weeks. The seniors, including his son, Etan, are expected to sign to play college ball for various universities, and the rest of the team will be ready to play next season.
“We will take this experience and build off of it,” he said.