March 4, 2014
By David Hayes
Eagles draw tough bracket after 64-48 rebound win over Bellarmine Prep
Avoiding a letdown after the stinging defeat to Garfield in the KingCo 4A championship game, Issaquah used its state qualifier Feb. 28 against Bellarmine Prep as a tuneup heading into the Hardwood Classic.
The Eagles pulled away from the Lions after a back-and-forth first-quarter to win, 64-46, at the regional matchup played at Puyallup High School.
Issaquah head coach Jason Griffith was pleased his squad was able to put the Garfield loss in their review mirror.
“I’m extremely proud of the kids. They know they didn’t play their best in the KingCo championship,” Griffith said. “But that’s what kids with good character and work ethic do.”
The Eagles shrugged off their 83-65 loss Feb. 21 to the Bulldogs, re-establishing their unselfish play, spreading the wealth. The Eagles’ trio of guards shot for a combined 21 of 33, with junior Ty Gibson leading the way. Gibson put in an impressive all-around game — in addition to sinking 22 points, he also had four assists, three steals and four rebounds.
“That’s what we’ve been asking him to do all year,” Griffith said. “When he shoots efficiently is when he’s the hardest to cover.”
In addition, Brian Watson contributed 18 points, on eight of 12 shooting, and dished out five assists. Jake Henke contributed with 11 rebounds.
The road to finals will be a tough one for the Eagles, as the draw put them in the same bracket with three of the state’s other top teams — Kentridge, Garfield and their next opponent Jackson.
The senior-ladened Timberwolves are coming off a 23-1 regular season, following a year when they finished second in state, losing to Curtis in the 2013 finals, 60-56.
“What they bring to the table is similar to our team,” Griffith said. “They’ve got a core group of players who’ve played together a while.”
As soon as the draws were announced over the weekend, Griffith and his staff went to work studying game tape of the Timberwolves. Topping their list of players to game-plan against are senior guards Jason Todd and Dan Kingma.
“We have a lot of respect for Jason Todd,” Griffith said. “He’s kind of what it’s all about. He’s a phenomenal leader.”
Todd has committed to play basketball next year at the University of Portland and Kingma, Griffith said, will walk on at the University of Washington. He added the key to beating Jackson will be stopping Kingma.
“A lot of their offense runs through Kingma,” he said. “He gets a lot of touches and looks to hand off to the others a lot.”
One of the other Timberwolves Griffin has to watch out for is 6-foot, 5-inch defender Brian Zehr.
“They’re a really solid, half-court defensive team, well-coached with a disruptive style, and can also take care of the ball,” Griffith said. “They’ll share the ball a lot, passing up good shots in favor of a great shot.”
Even though the Eagles are in the perceived tougher bracket in the eight-team state playoff, Griffith still likes his chances moving forward.
“We’re not a 23 and 1 or 24 and 2 team record wise, but everyone there knows we’re a pretty solid team,” he said. “The bracket is what it is. We have to play the cards we’re dealt and take it one game at time.
“But to be honest, we’ve been playing pretty well as a whole. We just have to go out and play our game.”