BOYS BASKETBALL: KW falls to Federal Way in tiebreaker

  • BY Wire Service
  • Wednesday, February 11, 2009 2:17am
  • Sports

Kentwood’s Joshua Smith felt the squeeze Tuesday night at Auburn High.

On the other side of the basketball court, Federal Way’s Michael Hale was riding a wave of confidence.

Hale, listed at 5-foot-9 and 130 pounds “soaking wet,” torched the Conquerors for 19 points — 17 of which came in the second half — to lead top-ranked Federal Way past second-ranked Kentwood 65-58 in a South Puget Sound League North Division tiebreaker.

The Eagles and Conquerors finished the regular season with identical 14-2 records in league.

With the win, the Eagles (19-2) nabbed the North Division’s top seed to Saturday’s SPSL tournament at Auburn High.

“They came to our house and they beat us (52-50 on Jan. 17). We needed to get back at ’em,” said Hale, a first-team all-league transfer from Decatur who was perfect at the line on Tuesday, hitting 11 of 11. “I decided to take over (in the second half). … You can never get frustrated. You have to play with a swagger. Some confidence.”

The lightning-quick Hale did just that, turning a 33-30 halftime lead into a seven-point win.

With the loss, Kentwood (16-5) will take the North Division’s No. 2 seed to the SPSL tournament. The Conquerors will play South Division No. 2 Curtis (17-4) at 4 p.m. on Saturday at Auburn High for the third seed to the district tournament, which begins next week.

Tuesday’s loss was as much a credit to Hale’s sterling second-half performance as it was Kentwood’s inability to get the ball down low to Smith, its 6-foot-9, 285-pound force in the paint.

Smith finished with a game-high 25 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots. He even hit a 3-pointer as time expired, but seldom received the ball in the paint without three Eagles draped on his back. And when Kentwood needed a boost late in the game, the Conquerors were unable to get the ball down low to Smith.

“In one sentence, we settled for the three. If there was a three, we settled for it,” said Kentwood coach Michael Angelidis. “(And) I thought we went away from even trying to get the ball to Josh. We just settled on shooting threes instead of coming down (and) looking for him.”

Which was Federal Way’s game plan coming into the night. Matter of fact, Smith found himself getting squeezed by 6-foot-7 Cole Dickerson and 6-foot-5 Robert Christopher the entire night.

“We just kind of sandwiched him in the offense,” said Dickerson, who scored 14 points.

But the loss was more about Kentwood not executing opposed to Federal Way doing what it had to do, Smith lamented.

“It wasn’t them, it was us,” he said. “They were sagging in, leaving (our shooters) wide open. Those are shots we have to hit in pressure games like this.”

But after a hot start, when Kentwood guard Alec Wilson connected on his first two 3-pointers of the first quarter, everything went cold for the Conquerors. Kentwood connected on just 5 of 21 3-pointers in the game.

Despite the cold shooting, the Conquerors remained in the game well into the fourth quarter, when the Eagles connected on 10 of 10 from the line to seal the victory.

After a first half that included three ties and four lead changes, Federal Way took command early in the fourth quarter. Federal Way guard Andre Barrington converted a pair of acrobatic layups past Smith, pushing the Federal Way lead to 53-44 with 6:02 remaining.

The deficit forced the Conquerors into the unenviable task of having to keep pace with the Eagles, a losing proposition even for a team as talented as Kentwood.

“They’re one of the quickest teams in the state — if not the quickest,” Smith said of the Eagles. “All of their guards are athletic and fast. If we get in a track meet with them, they’re going to beat us.”

Compounding matters was the fact that, outside of Smith, few other Conquerors were able to get going offensively. After a strong first quarter, in which he scored 8 points, Wilson registered just six the rest of the way. Tre Tyler added 10 for Kentwood, but never got into an offensive rhythm while Jason Boyce came off the bench to score 9.

No other Kentwood player scored.

“We had some great open looks and we didn’t convert,” Angelidis said. “We went away from our strength, which is try to get the ball inside.”

Federal Way 65, Kentwood 58

Kentwood 14 16 14 14 — 58

Fed. Way 15 18 16 16 — 65

Kentwood: Smith 25, Tyler 10, Wilson 14, Boyce 9, M. Everette 0, Humphreys 0, Retz 0, Coleman 0, H. Everette 0.

Federal Way: Dickerson 14, Hale 19, Forbes 5, Barrington 8, Umipig 12, Christopher 5, J. Williams 2, R. Jones 0, G. Williams 0.

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