Squalicum deals Vashon a rare loss | Boys Basketball

Quinn Holert dribbles through Fife’s defense. - Bill Gage photo
Quinn Holert dribbles through Fife’s defense.
— image credit: Bill Gage photo

The Vashon Pirates boys’ basketball team suffered their first defeat in nearly a year, as they lost 49-45 to the defending 2A state champion Squalicum Storm last Saturday in Bellevue. Earlier in the week, a fourth-quarter Pirate surge put away the visiting Fife Trojans, 58-43.

The Bellevue meeting between the reigning 1A and 2A champions was a highly anticipated event. Each team has been rated No. 1 in pre-season polls in their respective divisions. Fans across the state were eager to see how they might match up. A sizeable contingent of the Vashon faithful made the trek to see for themselves.

Squalicum (from Belling-ham) opened the game with a 6-0 burst that seemed to catch the Pirates by surprise.

But when a John Gage pass found Elias Weston streaking to the rim for two points, the Pirate machine seemed to spark to life. That ignited a 9-2 Pirate run, which was capped by Alex Wegner’s swat of a sure Storm lay-in, followed by his own three-pointer at the other end. While the Storm managed to gather a 22-13 lead in the second, Vashon was able to nibble it back to 22-19 before the half.

Squalicum is a quick, skilled team that retains most of its core from last season’s championship team. Vashon, having lost six seniors from last year, is working on rebuilding around returning starters six-foot-nine Stanford-bound Gage, and six-foot-seven junior Alex Wegner.

The Pirates chased Squalicum through the third period and into the fourth, finally catching them at 39-39 with 5:15 remaining.

Wegner led the late charge, making 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter. Down by only one point with 17 seconds on the clock, the Pirates were forced to foul. Storm free throws down the stretch sealed their victory.

On Wednesday, Dec. 9, the visiting 2A Fife Trojans pushed the Pirates hard in the early going.

The scrappy, quick Trojans posed a contrast to two opponents the Pirates had rolled over the week before. With the Pirates down 18-17 in the second quarter, senior Christian Hasson went to the floor for a loose ball, which was followed by a Matt Kerns three-pointer off the dribble to put the Pirates back on top.

Gage and Wegner provided inspired leadership on both ends of the court. With the score tied again in the third, Wegner swooped across the lane like a silent raptor to slap a sure Trojan lay-in off the glass from behind.

Scooping up the carom, point guard Elias Weston pushed the ball down court, where he fed a perfectly placed alley-oop to Gage for an emphatic slam. That sequence seemed to finally rattle the Trojans, setting them back on their heels, where they remained for the rest of the game.

“What a great ballgame,” said Coach Andy Sears of the classic against Squalicum. “I’m really proud of our guys. We were on the ropes a couple of times and we battled back.”

He praised Squalicum as a “good team. They’re very well coached.” He described them as similar to his own Pirates — “very athletic.”

As for the loss, he said he and his team will learn from this game.

We will “focus less on the losing aspect,” Sears said, adding that the team gets “really good feedback from playing such a great team.”

The Pirates will have a chance to put Saturday’s lessons to use this week as they prepare for Friday’s home game against the Cascade Christian Cougars, their main rival for the Nisqually League 1A/2B crown.

Game time is 7 p.m. at the Vashon High School gym. This is likely to be the casual Islander’s best chance this year to see the Pirates at home in a supercharged post-season atmosphere.

— Charlie Pieterick is the father of Pirate alum Chris Pieterick.

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