Skyline is too resilient for rival Eastlake’s pressure defense

January 17, 2012

By Christopher Huber

Skyline High School defenders (from left) Hunter Cikatz, Nick Kassuba and Lucas Shannon swarm Eastlake High School’s Kyle Laubscher under the Wolves’ hoop with four minutes to go in the fourth quarter Jan. 13. By Christopher Huber

If Eastlake High School’s boys basketball team could have figured out a way to get Michael Hwang and Brandon Lester the ball in the second half Jan. 13, the Wolves could have ridden a comfortable lead to victory over host Skyline.

But the Spartans figured out a way to contain the two hot shooters and get past the Eastlake defense down the stretch.

Skyline guard Will Parker gave his team its first lead of the night with an arching 3-pointer with 1:38 remaining in the fourth quarter. And that shot gave the Spartans the momentum to outlast Eastlake, 70-61, in overtime.

Eastlake went to 2-6 in KingCo play and 4-10 overall. At 7-1 KingCo and 12-3 overall, Skyline remains atop the Crest Division standings, in front of Redmond (6-2).

“It took the first half for us to do what the coaches wanted us to do in the first place,” said Lucas Shannon, a Skyline senior forward who scored 21 points. “We didn’t really change much.”

But the Spartans still got beat handily in the first half on defense. Skyline’s focus was to contain Lester and Hwang, who are dangerous from beyond the 3-point arc and are all-around weapons for the Wolves. The pair combined for 27 of Eastlake’s 31 first-half points, including five 3-pointers.

The Eastlake’s full-court-press defense dominated and kept Skyline shooters guessing in the first half. Despite tallying 18 points in the first half, himself, Lester wasn’t happy with the way his team lost focus in the second half. It tried the same scheme, but the Spartans’ defense retooled and came out in a man defense.

Skyline “just picked it up on defense and we did nothing different,” Lester said. “Our shots just didn’t finish.”

Hwang opened up the game with a big trey and Eastlake kept the lead all the way through, at one point leading 23-15 in the second quarter. It took a four-point halftime lead and quickly made it 38-27 early in the third quarter.

Skyline trailed 48-39 at the end of three quarters, but relied on Eastlake foul trouble to score easy points. In the fourth period, Shannon and Parker combined to make 10 of 12 free throw shots and to cut Eastlake’s lead to 58-56.

That’s when Parker hit the clutch shot to take the lead.

As Eastlake lost momentum and missed scoring opportunities, the Spartans found an offensive rhythm and tightened its defense.

Lester led all scorers with 26 points. Hwang finished with 16. Parker finished with 14 for Skyline and teammate guard Jonah Eastern tallied 13, including three 3-pointers.

“We just chalk it up to our focus,” Shannon said. “We just manned up and finished.”

The Jan. 13 game was not Skyline’s only thriller of the week.

On Jan. 11, Skyline topped host Roosevelt, 41-36. The Spartans again had a big fourth quarter as they outscored Roosevelt, 14-11, to win the game. Parker led Skyline with 15 points.

On Jan. 10 in a showdown with Crown Division-leading Garfield, Skyline posted a 51-49 victory. Parker buried a jumper with less than a minute to play to win the game. He finished with a team-high 14 points.

It was close throughout, a back-and-forth matchup of talented teams. Skyline’s largest lead was eight.

The Spartans looked like they could be in trouble when Shannon picked up his second foul less than four minutes into the game, but Nick Kassuba and Isaiah Richmond played important minutes off the bench.

The Spartans led by three points at halftime and did a good job containing Garfield standouts Tucker Haymond and TreVaunte Williams.

Garfield rallied in the final quarter. Haymond led the way, scoring 10 of his game-high 20 points in the fourth quarter, including two free throws with 1:18 left that tied the game.

Garfield had a chance to tie it at the buzzer, but a shot in the paint went in and out.

Christopher Huber: 392-6434, ext. 242, or chuber@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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