Federal Way High School hadn’t lost at home league game to a team not named Auburn since 2014. That streak ended in the Eagles’ last home game against Kentwood, where they fell 68-62.
The next game for the Eagles was against the Tahoma Bears, a side that had tormented the NPSL this season and was on a nine game in-state win streak.
The first time these two sides met, Tahoma cruised to a 62-55 victory over the Eagles at home. This time around, the Eagles did the cruising. On Jan. 25, Federal Way defeated the Bears, 70-56, holding Tahoma to a season low point total.
“They rebounded, they defended. Tahoma is a tough team, we knew it wasn’t going to be easy… The fellas responded tonight,” Head Coach Yattah Reed said.
This was a defensive performance that the Eagles had been looking for all season.
“It’s the stuff we had been practicing. We call them kills. We get a stop, that is one kill. We’re at the damn near end of the season and finally responded how to apply what we do in practice in the game,” Reed said.
The defense started in the first quarter. After a technical foul gave Tahoma two free points before the game started, the Eagles locked in on defense.
On multiple occurrences, the Bears were forced into bad shots and often errant passes that went out of bounds. Defensive pressure and rebounding was an emphasis for Coach Reed and the Eagles.
“I thought we scrapped on the glass, we defended, we got deflections and some 50/50 balls. All of the things we did not do against Kentwood,” Reed said.
Federal Way took a 19-11 lead after the first quarter with Kofi Peyton, Jacob Hurskin and Mason Thomas scoring two or more baskets. Defensively holding Tahoma to just 11 points is exactly how Federal Way wanted to start the game.
“I think we just came out and played Federal Way basketball. Last time we played Tahoma, they gave us an awakening. Ever since that loss, we have been waiting for Tahoma and wanting to play Tahoma. I am proud of my guys for holding on to that and being ready to go,” Kofi Peyton said.
Reed has a relatively inexperienced group this season. Aside from three transfers and Peyton, the majority of the roster is JV players from a year prior. That development and coming together as a team is something that Reed wanted to happen at this point in the season.
“I proud of them, but now we gotta build off this because this is where I was hoping we would be. But now we’ve only got two games left and then we play districts. You want to go in with confidence and that style of play that I have been asking from them,” Reed said.
In the second quarter, CJ Bible provided a much-needed spark on offense. He scored nine points, all in the second quarter. His energy off the bench helped propel the Eagles to a 34-21 lead at halftime.
“He’s our guy off of the bench. He’s the first one who was ready, comes with energy and plays defense. He’s a true point guard and that’s the type of guy every team needs,” Peyton said.
The second half was all about slowing down the Tahoma offense. As the saying goes, good teams will always find a run. But Federal Way was able to limit those runs to just two or three possessions.
“As a team at practice, our coaches were on us. Making us lock in during defensive drills and we just brought practice into the game,” Peyton said.
Mason Thomas was the story of the third quarter, after scoring six points in the first half. Thomas went off in the third and doubled his total in the third quarter with 12 points.
“Mason is a good player. But what I think the best thing about him is he is a better individual. He wants to be coached,” Reed said.
“He was just showing how underrated he is. I think Mason is super underrated, but coaches will see soon,” Peyton said on his teammate.
Hurskin and Brayden McVey also contributed with nine combined points in the third.
Heading into the fourth, Federal Way was leading, 55-41. Despite that lead, Tahoma tried its best to stay with the Eagles. But midway through the fourth, Kofi Peyton hit a dagger three-pointer to seal the win for the Eagles. Peyton hadn’t made a basket since the second quarter, but when the time came, he answered the bell.
“I didn’t worry about scoring. I know I am a scorer so scoring will come. I was just focusing on defense and trying to win the game,” Peyton said.
The Eagles have Mount Rainier and Kennedy Catholic on the docket before the district tournament rolls around. For a share of the NPSL title, they need some help and beat Tahoma again, but the Eagles are looking like they are clicking at the right time.
“We have the pieces and just from my experience you need pieces. We have length and we can defend…I am hoping this (win) will carry on into districts and really build their confidence up because I expect to be able to make some noise at districts,” said Reed.