Trojans ambush playoff-bound Bulldogs
By Gerardo Bolong
FIFE - Fife High School used deadly shooting and dominant rebounding to build a strong lead before edging out Foster 64-62 in a regular season concluding SPSL 2A boys basketball game at John McCrossin Court on Mon., Feb. 3.
The Trojans salvaged a South Puget Sound League tournament berth and trip to Steilacoom on Thurs., Feb. 6, at 7 p.m. The Foster Bulldogs open the first round at Renton on the same night with a 7 p.m. tip off.
After Foster trailed by a game-high 13 points early in the fourth quarter, guard Isaiah Ford brought the Bulldogs all the way back to a 59-all situation with 1:26 remaining.
Each team intensely fought until 6-foot, 4-inch junior Michael Steimle did what he had been doing much of the game by scoring a close-in basket for Fife 18 seconds later.
Judah Graham converted the second of two free throws to extend the Trojan lead to 62-59 ahead of a Bulldog three-point miss.
Fife called time out before in bounding the ball from back court.
Inexplicably, Steimle cleared the trapping defense like a football wide receiver beating the secondary to secure a home run pass for an uncontested lay up as 18 seconds showed.
Jamari Severson drained a three-ball for Foster, but the clock ran out on the heroic Foster charge.
Elements for a "trap" game existed with Foster already into the postseason and Fife needing the win for survival.
"We already had our playoff spot," said Foster head coach Robert Graham Sr. "We dug ourselves a big hole. The team kept fighting hard."
Early on, it was the Bulldogs who had momentum.
Markell Jackson scored the last eight points of the first quarter to lead Foster into a 14-11 lead going into the second quarter.
Foster soon stopped making baskets, especially from outside and allowed the Trojans to take control of the rebounds on both ends of the court.
Leading by eight points at 27-19, Fife held a 29-25 halftime lead as Ford and Severson marshaled a Bulldog charge. The Trojans could have led by more, but missed some high percentage shots.
Steimle was effective from the elbow to continually get close for short range baskets and helped push Fife into an 12-point lead at 38-26 in the third quarter. Jackson and Severson kept grinding to bring Foster within 42-37 with two minutes in the quarter.
Steimle and 6-foot, 6-inch Ivan Gonzalez-Cortez worked the boards to sail the Trojans away at 48-37. Mirza Djuderija notched to free throws to narrow the difference to single digits at 48-39 as the quarter ended.
Graham posted a basket to give Fife a 55-42 clearance with 6:25 left in the fourth quarter set up the last Foster comeback.
The Bulldogs launched an aggressive defensive press force themselves into the picture.
Ford knocked down three free throws after being fouled beyond the three-point arc to cap nine straight Bulldog points and create a 55-51 score.
Foster kept the margin within four points until Braxton Dizon maneuvered for a Fife reverse lay up to make the score 59-53.
Severson scored and Ford followed with an offensive put back basket to tighten the score to 59-57 at the 1:46 mark to precede the concluding action.
Steimle dominated the paint for 26 Trojan points as Khalil Messiah scored his 10 points in the first three quarters.
Jackson notched 18 of his game high 28 points in the second half in a prolific performance while Severson added 10 of his 13 points in the second half, as well. Ford was steady throughout for another 13 points.
Michael Steimle is a focused player who works for his team's success. I am proud of him.
Yay Michael Steimle!!! So proud of you, your team and this huge victory!
So proud of your dedication and abilities. You are a true team player!
Michael Steimle is a dedicated player who truly understands what it means to be a team player. So very proud you!