By CASEY OLSON, The Mirror
The Federal Way Eagles are the best boys basketball team in the city — for now. The fourth-ranked Eagles picked up a huge 68-66 win over the third-ranked Decatur Gators on Friday night in front of a sold-out crowd inside the Federal Way gym.
The win moves the Eagles to 8-1 overall and 5-1 in the South Puget Sound League North Division and creates a virtual three-way tie for the top spot in the North. Decatur and Kentwood are also 5-1 in league play.
The win also ended a two-game losing streak to the Gators and continued the run of great games between the two basketball powers. Federal Way beat Decatur 65-59 early in the regular season, before the Gators dropped the Eagles in their final regular season meeting, 52-51, and 67-64 in the semifinals of the West Central District Tournament.
The difference Friday night was the play of junior guard Jeff Forbes. The 6-footer scored 17 points on the offensive end of the court but, more importantly, defended Decatur’s leading scorer, Marcus Tibbs, for much of the game. With starter Andre Barrington in San Antonio, Tex., participating in the prestigious US Army All-American High School Football Combine, Forbes excelled, especially in crunch time.
After controlling the entire game, Federal Way allowed the Gators back into the mix late in the fourth quarter. The Eagles held a 46-36 advantage after the third and extended the lead to 52-40 with 5:25 left. But a 13-4 Gator run cut the lead to 56-53 with 2:05 remaining in the game. After three consecutive layups by Federal Way upped the lead to 62-53 with just under a minute to play, Decatur was forced to start sending Eagles to the free-throw line.
And the guy that ended up getting to the foul line was Forbes, who came into the game averaging 13 points. He calmly made five out of six huge free throws in the last 32 seconds to seal the Eagle win. Federal Way needed all of the points because Decatur never gave up.
The Gators (10-2) answered two Forbes free throws with a Michael Hale three-point play to cut the lead to 64-61. Two more free throws by Forbes were answered with a Darious Walker tip-in with 15.7 second remaining to cut the lead to 66-63. Forbes then made one of two free throws on the next possession before Tibbs buried a 3-pointer to cut the Federal Way lead to 67-66.
Following the three, the Eagles’ Aaron Broussard caught the inbounds pass and was immediately fouled with 3.6 seconds remaining.
Broussard missed the first free throw and made the second, allowing Decatur one last chance. But Jerron Smith’s off-balance half-court heave came up short to give Federal Way the two-point win.
Forbes was the difference down the stretch, but it was the Eagles’ dominance on the glass that proved too much for Decatur the entire game. Federal Way converted on numerous offensive rebound putbacks and outrebounded the smaller Gators by 12 during the game. The Eagles also had 13 offensive rebounds.
Federal Way’s Cole Dickerson (15 points, 12 rebounds), Broussard (11 points, eight rebounds)
and Daniel Young (six points and six rebounds) all were monsters in the paint.
Hale led Decatur with 22 points, five assists and three steals. Tibbs finished with 17 points, with eight coming in the last two minutes. Walker added 11 points and eight rebounds for the Gators, who have now lost back-to-back games.
In other boys action:
• The Thomas Jefferson Raiders dropped a heart-breaker to the Kentlake Falcons Friday night, 78-77. The loss dropped TJ to 1-5 in the SPSL North and 5-7 overall.
Kentlake (6-6, 2-4) trailed by eight at halftime, but took the lead by outscoring Jefferson 20-8 in the third quarter. Jefferson’s Spenser Sydney led all scorers with 27 points.
• Curtis was too much for the Todd Beamer Titans Friday night. The Vikings remained one game out of first place in the SPSL South with a 61-53 win at Beamer. The Titans (4-8, 2-4) dominated the first half of play, taking a 33-25 lead into the locker room. But Curtis (7-5, 5-1) outscored Beamer 17-4 in the third quarter to pull out the win.
Beamer senior guard Dakin Wanquist tallied a game-high 17 points and Napa Mefi poured in 16.
Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, firstname.lastname@example.org