You can’t miss it. The big yellow sign held up at every Overlake boys’ basketball game that says “No. 24 Danny Poplawski for MVP.”
The hot-shooting senior forward gave the home crowd plenty of reasons to cheer Tuesday night as he scored 23 points, including five straight 3-pointers, to lead the Owls past Emerald City League rival Cedar Park Christian School, 54-50.
But just minutes later, his team would receive the scare of a lifetime.
After Overlake lost Trent Halvorson to a knee injury earlier in the game, the Eagles toughened their defense on Poplawski in an effort to shut him down, and he was inadvertently elbowed in the head and knocked to the ground unconscious in the third quarter.
“We had a seven-point lead at halftime, and then they came out and (boxed) in on him,” recalled Overlake head coach John Wiley. “We made some adjustments and were doing really well, and then Danny got hurt. He went to the hospital and Cedar Park really turned up the heat at that point, but we withstood that and came back, some guys really stepped up.”
WARRIORS ON THE COURT
While Poplawski is currently listed as day-to-day, Halvorson’s blown-out knee was the injury-riddled guard’s third major injury of the season. He suffered a broken tailbone early in the season and came back miraculously two weeks later, then broke his thumb in three places after slipping and falling during a team practice.
“Trent’s had a number of injuries this year and has really battled through them. I think at this point we’re hoping to have him for the postseason,” Wiley said. “He’s been such a warrior, I never like to say he’s out, but at the same time we have to keep an eye out for his well-being.”
The fact that Overlake’s two top scorers and rebounders were suddenly out of commission meant that other Owls needed to step up and fill the gaping holes in the roster.
“Whether they set a great screen or dove for a loose ball, those guys put together a four-point win for us, and we’re excited,” said Wiley. “It was a bittersweet win, but it was one of those wins where that you talk to your kids all year about, this is why we have guys work hard in practice and be ready in games.”
HOME SWEET HOME
Even though he was out for most of the second half, Poplawski extended his lead as the league’s leaging scorer (19.4 ppg) by putting in a game-high 23, including 19 in the first half. Poplawksi’s teammate John Stolarczuk scored 13 and Chandler Hire added 11.
With the recent studies showing how dangerous concussions can be to the developing adolescent brain, Wiley will be using the utmost of caution in the decision to re-activate Poplawski.
“It is our hope that he is back soon, but at the same time something like this is so serious,” Wiley said. “He’s recovering, but he’s in good hands and we will take him if he can get back.”
With one regular-season game left to play against Seattle Academy, the Owls have improved their record to 6-5 in league play and 10-8 overall, but most importantly, last night’s win secured a home game for the Owls in the opening round of the Emerald City League playoffs, which begin Feb. 17.