Evergreen stands tall against Totems
By Chuck Mingori
The Evergreen boys’ basketball team notched a 47-40 victory at Tyee Friday night in a hard-fought SPSL contest between the two local 2A schools.
Senior guard Kenneth Lee sparked the Wolverine victory as he poured in a game-high 25 points, while sophomore Samuel Deressa led the Totems in scoring with 19.
Evergreen broke away from the Totems in the final minutes as the two teams clawed back and forth. The Wolverines led by as many as 11 in the third quarter and watched their advantage slip away in the fourth quarter only to seal the victory in the late going.
“We struggled a bit tonight offensively. But I thought the guys played hard,” said Evergreen coach Matt Erickson. “We have a tough test with Lindbergh on Tuesday. We just have to go prepare for that one.”
The Totems fell short on the scoreboard but put up a heck of a fight in the process.
“We’re starting to play with a little more passion,” said Tyee head coach Rod McCurry. “We’re starting to see our practice and hard work pay off, which is big in our program. That’s what we’re trying to do—to get kids to commit.”
The hard work and hustle of Tyee paid off early against Evergreen as the hosts jumped out to a 6-2 lead. The Wolverines answered as a three-pointer from Marcus Tupua-Tauiliili following a pair of free throws from Lee and post player Samatar Hashi put Evergreen up by one.
Lee sank one of two after a technical foul call against Tyee and then he made a three-point basket for an 11-6 Evergreen lead after the first period. The speedy Evergreen point guard started the second quarter by making a steal and going coast- to- coast for a lay in and one that completed a 12-2 run.
Sadio Traore grabbed an offensive rebound and scored on a put back to bring some momentum back to the Totems. A technical foul on the Evergreen side gave Deressa a chance to knock down two free throws and cut the Wolverine lead to 20-18.
However, the first half ended with Evergreen’s Lee sinking a three-pointer at the buzzer as the green-clad visitors took a 27-20 lead at intermission.
“We had some guys step up and play hard,” said the Evergreen coach. “I thought Kenny (Lee) did a good job. Marcus (Tupua-Tauiliili) played really hard. Some other guys contributed as well…we’ve just got to get five guys all on the same page (offensively). But I was proud how hard the guys played.”
The Tyee coach explained that his coaching staff is working hard to teach the young Totem players how to transfer skills developed in practice over to the game.
“It’s hard to teach basketball IQ and that’s what’s kind of setting us back. And turnovers are killing us,” he said. “I think we can score with anybody. We can defend with anybody. It’s just the mental things.”
Back-to-back baskets by Vincent Githinji to open the third quarter gave Evergreen a 31-20 lead and it looked like the Wolverines might run away with the contest. Deressa answered for the Totems, however, as he drained a pair of three-pointers, allowing Tyee to trail by six after three quarters.
The final quarter started with a flurry for Tyee after an opening basket from Evergreen. The Totems took turns scoring by tallying points from Deressa, Ryan Ahmed and Asier Debretsion. A steal and bucket by Traore brought the Totems to within one at 35-34.
A pair of free throws by Ahmed tied the score at 36 with 3:03 to play. Another two points on a reverse lay in from Ahmed had Tyee within two points again, but Githinji answered for Evergreen for two at the 1:49 mark and Tyee could get no closer as the final seconds ticked away with a win for the Wolverines.
“I think we probably have more experienced players than they do,” said the Evergreen coach, when asked to explain the final outcome. “Tyee played a really hard game. They played really well. They’re well-coached. We’re just a little bit older and we had a couple guys make a few more shots than they did. But both teams deserve credit for playing hard.”
The Tyee coach noted that his players are making strides while having to clear some big obstacles.
“It’s already hard enough for them to get on the court with all the hurdles that we have to jump through,” he said. “Just growing up in this area and a lot of them not being from this country. There’s a lot of hurdles that they have to overcome. They’re starting to do that. It’s starting to pay off. We’re really close to putting it all together.”
In addition to the 19 points of Deressa, the Totems were followed in scoring by the 10 points of Traore. Ahmed added nine and Debretsion scored two. For Evergreen, Githinji also reached double figures in scoring with 10 points.
Evergreen, 2-2 in league play and 2-7 overall, plays at Lindbergh Tuesday, Jan. 7 in the first of four games scheduled on the week. Wednesday, the Wolverines host Shorecrest, Friday they travel to play at Washington and Saturday the Wolves are at Interlake.
Tyee, 0-4 in SPSL and 1-6 overall, plays at Foster Tuesday, Jan. 7. The next night, the Totems have an away game against Summit Olympus. Friday, Jan. 10, Tyee plays at River Ridge.