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Boys basketball team captures TriDistrict Tournament title
The Pirate boys’ basketball team cut down the nets at the Mountlake Terrace High School gym on Saturday after winning the 1-A TriDistrict Tournament title. They begin play today at the 1-A State Tournament in the Yakima SunDome, as the number one seed out of the Northwest region.
Taking the court in their black-colored away-game uniforms against the Seattle Academy Cardinals, these young men in black put on a display of cold, clinical, precision basketball in their convincing 56-30 title game win. They appeared to be exorcising some of the demons that inhabited their pale skins during the previous night’s 42-35 nail-biter against the King’s Knights of north Seattle.
While the Pirates came out on fire against the Cardinals, a quick and athletic team, they could not separate from them over the first four minutes. But Vashon kicked it up a notch in the second half of the quarter. Aggressive Pirate defense and Vashon’s height forced the Cardinals into poor shot selection and turnovers. In the waning seconds, Pirate Charlie Hoffman came up with a huge block, tipping the ball out to Alex Wegner, who nearly completed a three-quarter court shot at the buzzer. Vashon up 16-8.
The Pirates continued to pressure the Cardinals in the second quarter. An opening 11-2 Pirate run was capped by a Hoffman monster slam over a Cardinal defender. Vashon’s high speed transition offense and interior play by John Gage and Hoffman continued to put Pirate points on the board for a comfortable 35-15 halftime lead.
Looking a half-step too slow coming out of the half, Vashon committed several turnovers and a cheap foul or two in the early going. Pirate coach Andy Sears called time out to give his warriors a piece of his mind. Properly refocused, Vashon came out of the break and managed to get the ball to Gage for two consecutive slams. This opened a 13-6 third quarter run. Midway through the quarter, starters Gage and Thomas Timm-Skove were pulled to appreciative applause by the Pirate faithful. Coach Sears used the remainder of the game to give some playoff experience to his bench.
The game against the King’s Knights in Friday’s TriDistrict semi-final was not as pretty. The Knights are a storied team with a long history of state tournament success. King’s was still smarting from last year’s TriDistrict Tournament overtime loss to the Pirates, when Gage stepped out to sink a buzzer-beating-3 pointer and prevented King’s their customary state tournament appearance.
King’s clearly hoped to neutralize Gage’s presence in this game by beating him up inside. The Pirates countered with attacks on the basket by wings Thomas Timm-Skove and Alex Wegner whenever Gage was not free. When King’s closed the driving lanes, Vashon worked it back into Gage, who still managed to power-up 6 first quarter points and grab a passel of rebounds to lead the Pirates to an 18-9 first quarter lead.
The well-coached Knights adjusted to the Pirate’s attack over the quarter break. They plugged the paths to the basket, forcing Wegner into two quick charging fouls. Timm-Skove would later pick up his own. Meanwhile, King’s found the bottom of the basket for 3 to start a run at the Pirates that narrowed the margin to 3 midway through the quarter. But the Pirates recovered on the back of Gage’s continued domination of the boards and a step-out 3, not unlike last year’s dagger. Vashon took a 27-16 lead into the half.
Kings recommitted to neutralizing Gage’s inside presence during the second half. Heavy contact underneath kept the Pirate big man away from the basket and allowed King’s to open on a 7-2 run. They closed within 3 late in the quarter and kept the Pirate margin to 34-28 by the quarter break.
Wegner got into early foul trouble 15 seconds into the fourth quarter when he picked up his fourth foul. Matt Kerns, subbing in for Wegner, made his mark on the game by sinking a 3 pointer on his first touch. On King’s next possession, Timm-Skove cleanly stole the ball and raced up court. Unfortunately, on his dash to the basket, he was ruled to have gone through a King’s defender and was called for the charge.
From this point, at the seven-minute mark, until under the two-minute mark, the game took on a chaotic flavor. Mounting tension made both teams tight and resulted in an exchange of turnovers and missed shots. Neither team scored again until Wegner sunk both ends of a one-and-one at the 1:44 mark to put the Pirates up 39-30.
But the Knights had one more run left and narrowed the score to 39-35 with 53 seconds remaining. Chris Pieterick, fouled after a late steal, made both freethrows to seal the 42-35 Pirate win.
The Pirates move on to the 1-A State Tournament which opens today at the Yakima SunDome. Track their day-to-day progress at www.vashonbasketball.com or www.tourneytown.com.
— Charlie Pieterick is a basketball dad.