Eagles’ wings clipped
March 11, 2014
By Neil Pierson
Issaquah suffers third loss to eventual state champ Garfield, settles for third
With the game on the line, the ball got into the right player’s hands, but the result didn’t go the way the Issaquah Eagles envisioned it.
Brian Watson’s contested shot from deep in the corner didn’t find its mark, and Garfield escaped with a 61-59 victory in the semifinals of the Class 4A state boys basketball tournament March 7 at the Tacoma Dome.
Trailing by two and inbounding the ball on the sideline near Garfield’s basket with 4.5 seconds left, Issaquah coach Jason Griffith drew up a play for junior guard Ty Gibson. Instead, the ball found Watson, who led the Eagles with 17 points, including three 3-pointers.
“To be honest, I was really confident coming out of that timeout,” Griffith said. “I thought we were going to get Ty isolated, or I thought we were going to get a wide-open (3-pointer). Sometimes that’s all it takes, is a second between being wide open and not.”
It was a bitter ending for Issaquah, which gave Garfield its only loss of the season. The Bulldogs (27-1) captured the state title the following day, beating Richland, 68-59.
The Eagles figured there wouldn’t be any surprises between the KingCo Conference rivals, who were playing for the fourth time this season.
“I felt like we were able to contain them pretty well for the most part,” said Gibson, who stuffed the stat sheet with 16 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals. “They made some plays and you’ve got to tip your hat to them, but like I said, we knew what they were doing and they knew what we were doing, and it just came down to who wanted it more.”
Prior to Watson’s miss at the horn, Garfield was able to break the deadlock at the foul line. Issaquah’s Jake Henke committed his fifth foul on Jashaun Agosto’s 3-point try, and Agosto hit two of three free throws for a 61-59 Garfield lead.
Addison McIrvin’s 3-pointer gave the Eagles a 53-49 lead with about 7 minutes to play, but Garfield’s Tramaine Isabell led his team back. Isabell hit a trey to pull the Bulldogs back within one, then drove through traffic for a clutch layup that put Garfield ahead, 59-56.
Isabell finished with a game-high 19 points and five assists, but shot only 5-for-13. Griffith credited Issaquah’s defensive game plan, which switched between a box-and-one and a 1-3-1 zone most of the way.
“We just kind of shaded to his side out of the 1-3-1, knew where he was because he’s such a good shooter, took our chances with some of the other guys, and for the most part, the defensive scheme worked,” Griffith said.
The teams traded early punches and went to halftime tied at 34. There were 11 ties and 17 lead changes during the first half, and Watson had 13 of his 17 points before the break.
The game’s physical nature — 44 fouls were called — eventually took its toll on both teams. Henke and Cory Nevin, two of Issaquah’s biggest bodies, fouled out, as did Garfield’s Zechariah Shepherd.
“It was definitely a factor in the game, but we had guys that came in and stepped up,” Gibson said. “We’re a deep team, and we always have guys that come in and play big minutes for us.”
Despite the disappointment of the semifinal loss, Issaquah regrouped early the next day and defeated the Beamer Titans, 60-49, for the third-place trophy.
Beamer led 36-33 after three quarters, but Issaquah exploded for 27 points in the final period. Gibson led four double-digit scorers with 18 points. Henke had 14 points and 10 rebounds, and the Eagles hit all 12 of their foul shots in the fourth quarter.
On March 6, the Eagles took down the Jackson Timberwolves — one of the pre-tournament title favorites — using a fast start en route to a 56-44 victory.
Gibson again led the way with 18 points, 10 rebounds and five steals. Trevon Ary-Turner added 12 points, and Henke collected 13 boards.
Despite claiming third place, Griffith said the Eagles didn’t accomplish everything they wanted to.
“We knew what we had coming back,” he said. “We went through adversity during the season. We kind of flew under the radar for the most part, but honestly, our goal was to get the state title.”