Issaquah Eagles fly out to fast 5-0 start in league play
December 13, 2011
By Bob Taylor
The Issaquah High School boys basketball team might need to adopt the old Willie Nelson tune “On the Road Again” as its team song. The Eagles, after winning their only home game of the month Dec. 9, finish December on the road.
Issaquah plays at Eastlake High School Dec. 16, at Inglemoor High School Dec. 20 and Dec. 28-30 the Eagles travel to Bend, Ore., for a holiday tournament.
The Eagles have already played four away games this season, and won all of them.
“It’s been a good challenge for our kids and they have been up to it,” second-year Issaquah coach Jason Griffith said. “Our team has not minded playing on the road. Our players have come into these games a lot more focused.”
These groups of road warriors are 5-0 for the season, and 2-0 in KingCo Conference 4A play. The Eagles were only 8-12 last season and 5-9 in league.
“Our players really have a blue-collar approach. They realize that 5-0 does not meat anything right now. They just want to concentrate on getting better each day,” Griffith said.
Defense, rebounding and passing the ball have been keys to the Eagles’ fast start.
“We take a lot of pride in our defense. I think teams realize we are going to play hard all 32 minutes,” Griffith said. “We move the ball well on offense. This is really an unselfish team.”
Issaquah is not deep in terms of height. Sophomore Jake Henke, who almost stretches out to 6-foot-5, is the tallest player on the team. Senior Fletcher Martin, a 6-4 forward, and Ryan Sexton, a 6-4 guard, are the next tallest players. Martin, with a wingspan of 6-7, plays much bigger than he looks.
“He has the uncanny ability to rebound offensively and defensively, and a good knack for blocking shots,” Griffith said of Martin, who averaged 11 points and nine rebounds last season.
The team’s top returning player is 6-3 senior guard Nick Price, who averaged 21 points a game last season. He has scored in double digits in every game this season, including a season-high 26 points Dec. 10 in the Eagles’ 83-48 nonleague victory against Marysville-Pilchuck.
But opponents should not concentrate on just trying to stop Price or Martin.
“If teams want to zone us or double up on Nick or Fletcher, we have other guys who can knock down the open shot,” Griffith said. “We have five or six guys who can really stroke the 3.”
Depth has been a key factor for the Eagles.
“We are a very, very deep team. We play 11 kids every game,” Griffith said.
Issaquah’s depth was a key Dec. 9, when it defeated visiting Newport, 62-47.
“In the third quarter against Newport, we started rotating guys and went to a full-court zone press. Having fresh guys on the court when the other team was starting to get winded made a huge difference,” Griffith said. “I don’t mind having depth. We have a good mix of seniors and younger kids.”
Against Newport, Issaquah shot to a 19-8 first-quarter lead and stayed in front for good.
“Newport is a very good team. It is well-coached and one of the better defensive teams in our league,” Griffith said. “I told our team that it would have to earn every bucket against Newport.”
Price, who hit 8 of 15 field goal attempts, led all players with 18 points. He also had four rebounds, two steals and two assists.
“One of our goals this season is for him to fill up the stat sheet,” Griffith said. “He has done a super job of it so far, and has shown how hard he has worked to improve his game.”
Martin added 10 points, and Drew Danner contributed nine points and a team-high five rebounds. Freshman guard Ty Gibson, son of Issaquah girls coach Kathy Gibson, also had nine points.
The Eagles opened league play Dec. 6 with a 62-43 victory against host Woodinville. Price led the Eagles with 17 points. Sexton added 11 points and Martin 10 points. After a 13-13 first-quarter tie, the Eagles broke open the game in the second quarter by outscoring the Falcons, 15-7.
Issaquah capped the week with its victory at Marysville-Pilchuck. The Eagles led 34-20 at halftime, and then blew out the host team, 30-18, in the third quarter.
“We are a real up-tempo team. We look to get good and great shots. That’s our goal,” Griffith said.
Sexton, who played on the Issaquah junior varsity last season, had 11 points. He connected on three of four 3-point shots.
“Nobody really knows about him and how much he has improved from last season,” Griffith said.
Issaquah’s goal this season is to enter post-season play, something it missed last year.
“We finished last season with some big wins. Our identity was starting to come forward and I think that has helped us this season,” Griffith said. “We want to restore Issaquah’s tradition in basketball.”
Spartans down Kennewick
The previous week, Max Browne was throwing touchdown passes for the Skyline High School football team in the Class 4A state championship game.
On Dec. 10, Browne connected on some key shots to lead the Spartans to a 54-44 victory against Kennewick in the Washington Hoop Challenge at Bellevue College. Browne finished with a team-high 16 points. Bryan Cikatz added 11 points for Skyline, 2-0 on the season.
Patriots get first league win
Tynan Gilmore scored 25 points Dec. 9 as Liberty defeated Juanita, 64-63, in a KingCo Conference 3A/2A contest. Cory Dukelow and Robbie Thomas each had 10 points as the Patriots earned their first league win.