By CASEY OLSON, The Mirror
The Decatur Gators enacted a little bit of revenge on their cross-town rival Thursday night. The state’s ninth-ranked team played a near flawless first half and hung on in the end for a 57-46 win over eighth-ranked Federal Way in front of a raucous, standing-room only crowd inside the Gatordome.
“It’s amazing whenever we play in front of our home crowd,” said junior guard Michael Hale. “It was just an incredible atmosphere.”
The win improved Decatur to 15-3 overall and 10-2 in the South Puget Sound League North Division and left them in a tie atop the standings. Federal Way (12-4, 9-3) fell into a second-place tie with the loss. Both teams have two league games remaining.
“We played hard and made shots,” said Decatur head coach Kevin Olson. “(Federal Way) really dominated the first game. But we really brought it tonight. We were not going to lose this game. A lot of people were off the Decatur bandwagon after we lost those three games. But we are right in this thing.”
The Gators controlled the game from the opening tip, building a 15-8 lead after the first quarter. Decatur extended the advantage to 32-16 heading into the locker room at halftime by attacking the rim and playing solid defense.
“We are starting to play more as a team,” said senior post Darious Walker, who finished with 16 huge points. “The game plan coming in was to play good, aggressive defense and we did.”
Eagle senior Aaron Broussard, who is headed to Seattle University in the fall, was the only offensive threat Federal Way had in the first half. The 6-foot-4 wing scored all nine of the Eagles’ second-quarter points and finished with 19 on the night.
“It was a slugfest,” Olson said. “It was a physical game, but it’s like that every time Decatur and Federal Way play.”
The Eagles tried to get back into the game in the second half. Broussard connected on a 3-pointer to end the third period, cutting the Decatur lead to 40-34. But the Gators, who made just five field goals in the second half, responded with a 7-2 run midway through the fourth to put the game away. Federal Way was forced to start sending Decatur to the free-throw line, where the Gators made 15 of 24 on the night.
“The difference this time around is the gym we are playing in,” Olson said. “At Federal Way, everybody is on top of you and it can rattle you. There were no problems like that tonight.”
Decatur senior guard Marcus Tibbs added 19 points, including seven in the final 1:32 of the game. Federal Way guard Jeff Forbes finished with 11, all in the second half.
Thursday’s loss was the Eagles’ second in their last three games. Federal Way also lost to Garfield Monday at the King Holiday Hoopfest at the University of Washington, 83-76. Broussard led Federal Way with 22 points.
The Gators end the SPSL North season with games on Tuesday at Jefferson and Thursday against Kentwood. Federal Way plays Tuesday at home against Kentridge and on the road Thursday against Kent-Meridian.
Tuesday’s boys basketball action:
• Beamer 66, at Graham-Kapowsin 64 — Brad Williams scored a layup at the buzzer to win the game for the Titans (7-10, 5-6 SPSL South). The win left the Titans in a fourth-place tie with Puyallup.
Williams finished with 18 points, as did teammate Dakin Wanquist.
Graham-Kapowsin’s Devin Bales made a 3-pointer that tied the score with five seconds left before Williams’ basket. Bales led the Eagles (1-16, 0-11) with 19 points.
• At Decatur 82, Kent-Meridian 53 — Darious Walker scored 15 points and grabbed 15 rebounds and Michael Hale and Marcus Tibbs both scored 20 in the Gators’ win.
• Kentridge 72, at Jefferson 51 — The Chargers outscored the Raiders in the second quarter, 23-8, to win the SPSL North game.
Renado Parker led Kentridge (15-3, 9-2) with 20 points. Xavyr Moss led Jefferson (5-12, 1-10) with 16.
• Federal Way 59 at Kentlake 54 — Aaron Broussard scored 17 points and Cole Dickerson tallied 15 for the Eagles.
Federal Way entered the fourth quarter with an 18-point lead before the Falcons (9-9, 4-7) rallied.
Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, firstname.lastname@example.org