Highline boys edge Evergreen
By Chuck Mingori
The Highline boys’ basketball team eked out a 39-38 victory over Evergreen Friday night at Highline Community College to capture a split in the spirited season series between the two rival schools.
Down by one point with 12 seconds to go Highline drew up a play during a timeout to set up the game-winner. The first attempt inbounds was deflected out of bounds by Evergreen, so the Pirates tried again.
“I did set up a play and it didn’t work,” said Highline head coach Djuan Piper of his team’s first attempted winning possession. “I told them to get it in. If it doesn’t work, just go. Go get a bucket.”
On the second throw-in Highline worked the ball inbounds in front of its own bench with top scorer Malakai Carter getting the call. The 5-9 senior guard drove left down the lane and rolled in his shot with three seconds left on the clock.
“I felt like they beat us the first time (62-61, Dec. 19) so we can’t lose on our senior night,” said Carter, who led all Pirate scorers with 15 points. “At the end, we just executed a play.”
The Pirates controlled the game from the start and struck first offensively on three-pointers from Matt Perkins and Carter, who scored nine of his team’s first 12 points. Evergreen’s Kclay Vo hit a three from the corner to break the ice for the Wolverines, but the Pirates led 16-5 after Amare Jackson sank a floater.
The Pirates built a 20-5 advantage early in the second quarter as Audres Jones drove for two and then had a steal that led to a basket for Kelvin Adu. Evergreen struggled in the first half against Highline’s defensive pressure and had problems with turnovers. But Vincent Githinji and Kenneth Lee scored all Wolverine points in the quarter to help stave off the Pirate onslaught.
The Pirates drew strong efforts across the board. Perkins scored on a short put back and Joey Jayal sank a jumper that pushed the Highline lead to 25-12 prior to a lay in by Lee that closed out the first-half scoring with Highline on top, 25-14.
“I am happy because our guys showed their heart and they kept fighting,” said coach Djuan Piper of his team’s winning effort. “Things weren’t going our way in the second half… Defensively, we played OK. We couldn’t buy a bucket. But we found a way to win.”
The Wolverines fought back after trailing big, only to come away with a heartbreaking loss.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been prouder of the way one of my teams played,” explained Evergreen coach Matt Erickson. “I really wanted them to see what it felt like to get a win when you didn’t play well offensively and kept working on defense. But it didn’t happen, and I feel real bad for them.”
Highline was still ahead 31-21 late in the third quarter after Riley Piper grabbed an offensive rebound and scored. A pair of Githinji free throws and a long three-pointer by Samatar Hashi from Evergreen closed the deficit to 31-26 entering the fourth quarter.
The momentum had swung as Hashi added a free throw and Githinji scored inside on a put back. Lee hit one of two from the free throw line before sophomore guard Marcus Tupua-Tauiliili made a steal and went coast to coast to put Evergreen on top, 32-31, with 3:58 to play. That completed an 11-0 Evergreen run.
The teams traded points in the final minutes as the pressure built and neither team would go away. A basket by Githinji put Evergreen up by two, but Riley Piper answered for Highline to tie the score at 36-all.
A drive to the hoop by Lee of Evergreen gave his team a 38-36 lead with only 37 seconds to play. Highline senior Perkins then converted one of two free-throw attempts with 29 seconds on the scoreboard clock.
Evergreen’s Alonzo Greene was fouled with 17 seconds to play but could not convert a one-and-one. Highline rebounded, moved the ball up court and then called a timeout to set up the decisive final play.
“Throughout the season in those positions we folded,” said Highline coach Piper. “But tonight we were able to come through and get the win.”
Evergreen had a chance for one more shot after Highline took the final lead but lost the ball on the inbounds play. The Evergreen coach explained that there were “several plays that we could have made. A couple things didn’t go our way down at the end. It turned out on the wrong side. But really, really proud of my seniors. Vincent (Githinji), Kenny (Lee), Alonzo (Greene) and Sammy (Hashi). All doing a really good job of continuing to lead.”
Highline seniors playing their final home games: Audres Jones, Kelvin Adu, Joey Joyal, Kyle Gran, Matt Perkins and Malakai Carter.
With the win, Highline improved to 3-8 in the SPSL 2A North standings and 6-12 overall. Evergreen fell to 2-8 in league and 2-15 on the season.
The Pirates play at Foster on Tuesday, Jan. 28, and at Renton Feb. 3 to close out their regular season. Evergreen will play three home games to close out its season starting with Tyee on Tuesday, Lindbergh Friday and Clover Park on Monday, Feb. 3.
Githinji’s 16 points led Evergreen followed by Lee with nine, Greene four, Hashi and Kclay Vo three apiece and Tauiliili two.
Carter’s 15 points led the Pirates. He was followed by Riley Piper with seven, Perkins six, Joyal three and Jackson, Kyle Gran, Jones and Adu all finished with two each.