Federal Way Eagles boys basketball places 3rd in state after a win over Mt. Si

First time the Eagles have placed in the season-ending tournament since 2019.

A third-place finish was the end of the road for the Federal Way Eagles boys basketball team this season. The Eagles took down the second-seeded Mount Si Wildcats, 69-63, on March 4.

“I think we executed and played well together. In this game, I felt like it was about who wanted it more, and we wanted to go out with a win,” Isaiah Afework said.

After a tough loss to Curtis, the Eagles found themselves in a battle for third at the state tournament in the Tacoma Dome.

“I don’t think they forgot. Coaches and alumni reminded them as a motivator to bounce back. You’re going to be judged on how you finish the tournament.” Reed said.

“It was hard, all of our goals led us to that game. It was a tough loss but we had to forget it and get it today,” Afework said.

The Eagles had championship aspirations with such a veteran group, but a third-place finish is no slouch of an achievement. It is the second time since 2019 the Eagles have finished inside the top three, back in 2019 Federal Way placed in third.

“I thought I would feel it more, but I think that I built the season and game up so much that I am accepting that the season is over, ” said Afework, a senior.

“The guys bounced back. It’s tough with a group of seniors that we have and what goals they have set. To be able to come back strong, my hat goes off to them,” Reed said.

Federal Way’s final 2023 record was 25-3, two of those three losses were to both 4A finals teams Olympia and Curtis. The other loss was to Perry High School out of Gilbert, Arizona. The Pumas were the 2023 Boys Basketball Open Tournament winners.

The contest was a challenge for Federal Way, over the last three state tournaments dating back to 2019, the Wildcats have played in the championship game including a championship back in 2020.

“I challenged them this morning, I challenged them during shoot around and during warm-ups and even halftime telling them ‘ You’re going to be remembered by your last game,” said Reed.

In the third-place game, the Eagles had a tall task at hand, literally. Four of the five starters for the wildcats were over 6-foot-4, including a pair of trees standing 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-9 Federal Way’s tallest player is Dace Pleasant, who is listed at 6-foot-6.

“We were just trying to make it tough on them… I was very impressed with our guys and their execution,” Reed said.

The first half was very competitive with both teams shooting over 48% from the floor in first half. However both teams struggled to shoot threes, Federal Way went 3-9 (33.3%) and Mt. Si shot 25% (2-8).

The leading scorers at the half for the Eagles were Vaughn Weems and Dace Pleasant. Weems had 15 with three rebounds, Pleasant scored 12 with two assists.

Over the first eight minutes after halftime the Eagles dominated the competition. Federal Way outscored the Wildcats 17-9 in the quarter, giving them enough cushion for the rest of the game.

Vaughn Weems caught fire in the third-place game. Weems ended the game with 25 points and only missed one shot shooting 90% from the floor, he also swatted three Mount Si shots and finished the game with three steals.

Overall the Eagles took care of the ball much better than any other game in the Tacoma Dome. Over the two games previous to this matchup, the Eagles combined for 30 turnovers, in their final game of the season, they had just five.

“It was very important to remind them to take care of the ball. Possessions at this point in the year are more important than ever… They did a better job of valuing the ball… Even though we lost last night we were still able to learn and apply it to today’s game,” Reed said.

The Eagles had title aspirations and will shoot for this goal again next year. The group will be young and hungry, according to Reed. But players like junior Kofi Peyton and freshman Adonai Burckett have experience and will use that to lead the team next season.

“Experience is the key. Being in these situations and going through these losses they learn from it. I hope these guys will figure it out, I know we’ll be ready and excited to work with them,” Coach Reed said.