Ballard Beavers scorch Skyline Spartans in boys basketball, 49-41

January 8, 2013

By Lillian O'Rorke

Skyline junior Blake O’Brien works his way around Ballard’s defense in the Jan. 4 KingCo 4A game. By Lillian O’Rorke

The Skyline boys basketball team came out ready to start the new year off with a victory Jan. 4 in its first league game following winter break. But Ballard thwarted their plans, running away with a fourth quarter win, 49-41.

“I thought we had it in the bag,” said junior guard Jonah Eastern, who led the Skyline Spartans with 23 points. “We came out mentally ready. We wanted it. And we know how to win; we just don’t know how to finish, and that’s something we’ve got to learn.”

After grabbing a 9-3 lead during the first five minutes of the game, the Spartans maintained their distance to finish out the first quarter with a score of 11-6.

The Ballard Beavers quickly answered back in the second quarter with a three-point field goal to start things off, followed by a successful performance at the foul line to tie the game at 11-11.

Eastern netted a jump shot and the fight was on.

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The two teams battled basket-for-basket. With three minutes left in the first half, a three-pointer gave the Beavers their first taste of victory with a 16-15 lead. The Spartans countered with Eastern drawing the attention of two Ballard defenders on himself before passing the ball to Bryan Starnes, who fired it in from behind the three-point line.

Despite a free throw by the Beavers in the final minute of the quarter that tied the score, the Spartans pulled away with a 21-18 lead after Eastern dropped in another three-pointer.

The third quarter started with a bang when Skyline sophomore Matisse Thybulle stole the ball and put two on the board with dunk.

“It was fun,” Thybulle said. “I wasn’t expecting it myself really. Kind of like, the game takes over, and you just go with the flow.”

His dunk put the Spartans in line for a 9-3 run, which included another three-pointer by Eastern. Skyline had the lead at 30-21 until the four-minute mark when Ballard kicked off its comeback with its own three-pointer.

The Beavers closed in on the Spartans until finally, in the last second of the third quarter Ballard’s Seth Berger dunked to grab the lead, 33-32.

“I reminded them that a dunk is two points,” Skyline coach Maui Borden said. “I wanted them to commit to not looking at the scoreboard in fourth quarter. Because it seems like we play tense when we start to look at the scoreboard and worry, ‘Oh, we are only up one or only up two.’ When they can just push that aside and just play, they’re fun to watch.”

The Spartans quickly took back the lead in the start of the fourth quarter after Eastern connected for a three-pointer.

Skyline managed to hang on to a small lead for the first four minutes until the Beavers sprung ahead 38-37 with a three-point shot that gave them the momentum to go on a run of eight. The Spartans struggled to close the gap and came as close to 45-41 before eventually falling 49-41 at the final buzzer.

“I take as much of the blame as anyone else. … Those kids are doing a great job effort-wise. So, I wouldn’t trade them for anybody,” Borden said. “I think they are doing a tremendous job of responding to a new system. From what they ran last year to what we are running this year is really night and day. And I am just so proud of the way that they’ve taken it on.”

This is Borden’s first year as head coach, and he’s changing things up.

“Last year they were a much more set-oriented team. This year, we are more of a continuity offense, and so there are adjustments with that,” he said. “There are some guys that really stepped up tonight. Hunter Cikatz did an amazing job on Seth Berger, who is an amazing player. And that was one of the most really gutsy, courageous efforts I’ve seen out of a guy.”

The 6-foot, 7-inch senior guard for Ballard averages 16 points per game, but on Jan. 4, Skyline held him to 10.

“I’m always looking to take the best player. I’m a competitor, so I live for that,” said Cikatz, a 6-foot, 4-inch junior for Skyline. “I can’t say we played bad. It’s just shots weren’t going, and Ballard brought it today.”

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