Two much eagles
February 4, 2014
By Neil Pierson
Senior guard duo rallies Issaquah girls past Skyline
Mandie Hill and Mackenzie Wieburg had been held in check most of the game, but they made their presence felt when the Issaquah Eagles reached crunch time.
The senior guards — Issaquah’s leading scorers this season — combined for 46 points, 31 in the second half, as the Eagles rallied from a fourth-quarter deficit to beat the rival Skyline Spartans, 57-51, in girls basketball action Jan. 31.
Issaquah (10-7 overall, 8-4 KingCo Conference) sewed up a top-two seed in the Crown Division, giving them home-court advantage for the opening round of the playoffs Feb. 12.
“Really, we just needed a gut check, and we just all knew that it was Skyline and that we all had to come together,” said Wieburg, who had 20 points. “It’s all about heart.”
Meanwhile, Skyline (4-8, 10-8) is clinging to the fourth and final playoff spot from the Crown, and likely needs a win against Newport on Feb. 6 or against Garfield on Feb. 7 to solidify its postseason ticket.
The Spartans took a 39-35 lead to the fourth quarter, and reserve guard Alicia Shim buried a 3-pointer that gave them a 47-40 edge with 5 minutes, 19 seconds to play.
But they couldn’t hang on as the 5-foot-7 Hill scored 17 of her game-high 26 points in the final frame. Leadership proved to be a key factor in the result, Spartans coach Greg Bruns said.
“That’s kind of been the story of the year — we don’t have a senior leader like Mandie Hill,” Bruns said. “We’ve got some growing pains. We’ve got freshmen and sophomores that are running the team, and it’s been kind of a problem throughout the year.”
Skyline stonewalled Hill in the first half, as she scored only four points, all on free throws. But the Eagles began to set her up as the game wore on, and she hit three 3-pointers in the second half.
“My teammates, they’re just great,” Hill said. “They looked at me and they were like, ‘We’re going to get you the ball. We’re going to make sure this happens.’
“I’m just so blessed to be on a team where everyone just makes sure everyone is in a good place. And they could tell that I was kind of bummed at halftime, because I want to contribute as much as I can to this team.”
Both teams appeared jittery to start the game, as turnovers defined a back-and-forth first half. The Eagles led 11-10 after one period, but Bryn deVita and Shelby Kassuba combined for 14 first-half points as the Spartans led 24-22 at the break.
Skyline’s offense gained some fluidity in the third quarter as Kassuba went to work, scoring on a variety of post moves and jump shots. The 5-10 senior wing finished with a team-high 19 points.
However, deVita managed only one point in the second half. She finished with nine, and fouled out with 2:07 to play, her team clinging to a one-point lead.
Hill stole the ball on the next possession, and was fouled on a breakaway layup. She completed the 3-point play to put Issaquah up 53-51 with 1:33 left.
The Spartans committed turnovers on four straight possessions late in the game, and Hill and Wieburg hit all four of their foul shots to ice the result.
Issaquah, which last reached the state tournament in 2010, could get there again, behind the outstanding performances of its star senior guards.
“We had a few rough games,” Wieburg said, “but this team has so much heart, and when we buckle down and we focus, there’s no limit to what we can do.”
“In order to be successful, I think we just need to keep up our intensity and play every game like we just played,” Hill added.
Skyline will try to recover this week, and Bruns thinks his players can do it.
“We had Newport last time exactly like this — we had a lead late in the game and let it get away from us,” he said. “So, I think if we play like this tonight, against them next week, we’ll be fine.
“The energy and effort was there. They did a lot of good things. It’s just learning how to finish games.”