After Tuesday night’s brutal 60-56 loss to No. 3 Skyline, the Redmond High boys’ basketball needed a bounce-back win Wednesday against Issaquah on the Eagles’ home court.
And they got it.
Redmond held a 26-16 lead into halftime before the Eagles clawed their way back and eventually took the lead briefly in the fourth quarter, but the Mustangs were able to come up with clutch shots down the stretch to secure a key 58-52 Kingco 4A win.
“What defines you is not what happens to you, but how you react to it,” said head coach Jeff Larson. “We had reason to feel sorry for ourselves, to say we were tired. I didn’t see that. I saw a group of guys that were really hungry to compete.”
A DEFINING MOMENT
Issaquah is one of the top scoring teams in the the league, utilizing a high-octane, senior-laden offense that has put up 76 points or more five times this season.
But the Eagles (4-5 in league, 10-5 overall) were playing their first game in almost two weeks due to what the announcers jokingly referred to as “Snowmageddon,” and as a result the team shot a dismal 0-11 in the second quarter.
In the third quarter, however, Issaquah improved its field goal shooting to 50 percent (7-14) and also started a full-court press on the Mustangs, which caught them off-guard.
With five minutes left to play, it was a whole new ball game at 40-40.
“We knew Issaquah was going to bring it,” Larson admitted. “I think the layoff may have hurt them a bit, and we expected that in the second half.”
While both teams were in the bonus, the Mustangs were able to keep the Eagles off the line and also hit pressure shots of their own.
Nursing a three-point lead with 38 seconds left, Redmond senior guard Leslie Ellis hit a huge jumper to make it a two-possession game at 55-50. After the Mustangs came up with a key stop, Kyle Sawtell hit two clutch free throws to seal the deal.
“I was struggling from the line (against Skyline) and a little bit this whole season,” said Sawtell, who transferred from King’s School in Shoreline last fall. “To knock those down and seal the game for us, it felt great.”
Jason Harrington, who shot 7-for-10 from the field and 4-for-5 from the line for a game-high 21 points, led the Mustangs with Ellis (12 points), Sawtell (11) and Conner Floan (10) also contributing.
“We had to pick it back up and get second place in Kingco,” said Harrington on the importance of Wednesday’s game. “Our whole team showed up, played great defense, hit shots when we needed to. We did everything we had to do to get the win tonight.”
‘THIS DARN LEAGUE’
There seems to be no easy game in 4A Kingco boys’ basketball this year, and the Mustangs’ road trip remains tough as they take on No. 6 Garfield, on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. on the Bulldogs’ home floor.
“I appreciate the opportunity to go back-to-back on the road against two tough teams and face Garfield on Saturday,” Larson said. “We want the challenge. These guys are capable.”
With four games left on their regular-season-schedule, the Mustangs (7-3 in league, 12-4 overall) are currently a half-game behind second-place Garfield (7-2, 9-5), and with a win Saturday, will leapfrog the Bulldogs.
“We figure we’ll see them again (in the postseason),” Harrington said. “It’s a real big game, since we lost to Skyline we (need to win) to be one of the two leaders in Kingco. We’ll be ready for them.”
And after watching 4A Kingco competition get better and better during his eight-year tenure at Redmond High, Larson knows that even with as talented of a team as he has this year, there are certainly no guarantees.
“Every coach is saying the same thing, ‘This darn league!’” he quipped. “There’s going to be eight teams that go to the Kingco playoffs, and I honestly believe any of the eight could be Kingco champs.”
To view more great action photos from the Mustangs’ game against Issaquah, visit photographer Matt Campbell’s website at http://www.sportspixs.com/rhs_basketball012512