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Boys' team overcomes resilient squad from Eastside Catholic
The Mount Si Wildcats came into last week's boys' basketball game against Metro League foe Eastside Catholic with an undefeated record and increasing statewide prestige with their top 10 poll rankings. That meant nothing to the Crusaders, who gave Mount Si all they could handle before the Wildcats pulled away late and kept their undefeated mark intact.
Senior Kevin Englund popped in a double-double of 19 points and 11 rebounds, and that led all scorers as Mount Si beat EC 70-61 in a well-played contest by both teams. Wildcats' coach Garrick Phillips said the Crusaders gave his team a great test.
"[EC] really did," he said. "They played well. I give them a lot of credit. It's a great nonleague game for us. That's what we wanted is a closely contested game that allows us to get out of our comfort zone a little bit."
Mount Si senior Kyle Clearman was pleased.
"Well, we struggled a little bit offensively and defensively in the first half. We picked it up like we always do in the fourth quarter and finished out the game well," Clearman said.
Kyle Meuli added 16 points, and junior Tommy Abbott pitched in 14 on torrid 6/7 shooting from the floor to pace the Wildcats. Vince Taylor, a sophomore forward, scored 16 points to lead the Crusaders, while junior Andrew Mills, with 13 points, and senior Cordell Robinson, with 10 points, provided quality supporting efforts for EC in defeat.
It was a tight game from the opening tip, as neither team was able to gain an advantage.
When EC tried to pull away, Mount Si stopped them dead in their tracks. After the first quarter it was a 13-13 tie, and things remained close in the second quarter. Robinson's bucket with about 32 seconds left in the frame sent the Crusaders into the locker room at halftime with a slim 31-29 lead. EC in the third quarter gradually increased their lead to seven points at 45-38, then with a little under four minutes left in the stanza, the Wildcats went on a 11-0 run keyed by three-pointers from Clearman and Ryan Reilly, and went into the fourth quarter with a 51-49 lead.
With 5:46 left in the fourth, as Mount Si was nursing their slim advantage, a foul was called on the Wildcats, sending the Crusaders to the foul line. As EC was preparing to shoot their free throws, Mount Si's Remo Castagno was given a technical foul. The Crusaders made three of four combined free throws from the foul and subsequent technical, and had what would be their final lead at 54-53. The Wildcats did not let the questionable call affect them.
"We just went out and finished the game, [and] didn't let it get to our heads," Reilly said. Mount Si retook the lead shortly thereafter on another Clearman three-pointer, and the Wildcats finished the game on a 6-0 run to seal the victory.
In attendance were several former Mount Si boys' hoops stars, among them Jarrod Wiegardt, Jeremy Johnston and Erik Tierney. Phillips was happy to see his former players.
"I mean once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat," Phillips said. "I mean, I loved having those guys. We've had guys stop by and help us out in practice and I love having them come to the game. The Christmas time's awesome. We had a great crowd, and we love to have everybody in the stands getting behind the team, which helps motivate us, for sure."
The Wildcats play in Ellensburg this week at the holiday tournament there, and they return to Kingco play next week with two huge games: a road tilt Tuesday at Mercer Island, then home next Friday against the Bellevue Wolverines, who are also undefeated, at least in league. Bellevue eliminated Mount Si from postseason last season, so the Wildcats will have something to prove.
Tips for both games are at 7:30 p.m., and the Bellevue game will be Webcast via Cybersports USA at www.cybersportsusa.com.