Less then a week after being denied a playoff berth by one loss, the Vashon basketball team returned to the hardwood to win its final game of the season against league rival Charles Wright Academy.
“We really wanted to send our seniors off with a win,” said head coach Andy Sears. And the Pirates did just that, decisively defeating the Tarriers by 11 points.
The Pirates looked fired up as they walked onto the court on Tuesday for Senior Night. Just seconds into the game, sophomore Ian Stewart stole the ball away from Tarrier Nate Mondu and passed it to a streaking Ben Whitaker for the first points of the game.
The Pirates outplayed the Tarriers at both ends of the court. Junior Thomas Douglas hit a spot-up 3-pointer to add to the Pirate lead late in the first quarter. At the end of the period, the Pirates were up 13-8.
The second quarter was very evenly played with both teams scoring 12. This season the second quarter has usually been hard for the Pirates, but they managed to keep a 5-point lead. Freshman Sam Yates added a 3, and sophomore Jesse Norton gave the Pirates several good drives during the quarter. At the half, the score was 25-20 with Pirates in the lead.
As play resumed in the third quarter, the Tarriers came out faster and better than the Pirates, scoring 13 and holding Vashon to only 8 points. At one point, Norton was driving the lane and was obviously fouled, but the referees made no call as Norton stood there with his arms up and a puzzled look on his face and as Sears exploded on the sideline. Controversial calls are part of every sport and especially high school sports.
There was a miraculous team play by the Pirates later in the quarter. When the ball was about to bounce out of bounds, Stewart saved the ball, passing it to Norton, who forwarded it to Whitaker, who passed it right back to Norton for a layup, electrifying the crowd. At the end of the third period, the Pirates were up by 1 point, 34-33.
To start off the final quarter of his basketball career, Whitaker swatted a Tarrier layup attempt, then senior Matt Swope scored his final points with a layup.
The Pirates played great during the fourth quarter on both defense and offense. Jacob Plihal stuffed Fritz Jacobson, and right after Norton hit a 3 with two ticks left on the shot clock.
Later in the quarter, Norton had a Dewayne Wade style play, launching the inbound pass to Whitaker, hitting him in stride for the break-away layup. With two minutes left, the Pirates were up by 10 and looking forward to victory. Whitaker scored the final points of his career with two free throws.
With 28 seconds left and victory secured, Sears subbed out the two seniors and the crowd gave them a standing ovation. Whitaker led the Pirates in scoring with 15 points in the 52-41 victory.
The Pirates, with a final record of 13 wins and 7 losses, missed playoffs by one loss this year. But Sears said he is looking forward to next season, when 11 of 13 players are expected to return.
— Ezra Lacina is a student at Vashon High School.