Wildcats boys' team rides momentum into District playoffs

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BELLEVUE - The Mount Si Wildcats boys' basketball team opened postseason play at the Kingco Conference Tournament last Thursday at Bellevue Community College with a strong win over the Skyline Spartans. Mount Si overcame an 18-point effort from the Spartans' senior guard Jayce Gutzler and defeated Skyline 52-44.

"It was a huge win for us. We played pretty good. [We] kind of started to play into their hands towards the end a little bit, [by] taking some bad shots, but we came through at the end," said Wildcats' sophomore guard Kyle Clearman, who finished with seven points.

Junior guard Erik Tierney led the Wildcats with 15 points, while senior guard Luke Landdeck added 13 to pace Mount Si.

Discipline was key to Mount Si's success, according to the Wildcats' coach Garrick Phillips.

"I was just telling the guys that it's situational, that those were good shots early in the game, [but] they're not really good shots now when you have a 10- 11- [or] 12-point lead. We need to take care of the ball and understand that they're the team that needs to scramble and come after you," said Phillips.

The win was a great accomplishment considering the team's slow start for the year. Phillips credits many with helping to turn around the team.

"The record was wearing on all of us. But [to] the credit of these kids, and my coaching staff, and the parents, the program as a whole, I really mean that. We have very strong support from the parents and from the kids," said Phillips. "I had to be refocused, I think, by my coaching staff and by parents to understand that it's a long season and there's a lot more to it than wins and losses."

The Saints ain't

For the first three quarters Saturday it was all about the Burke and Brigham show, as the Interlake High School stars Bryce Brigham and Brian Burke dominated the game and helped the Saints take a seven-point lead into the fourth quarter. After that, things changed.

Landdeck and fellow senior Jeremy Johnston led a furious fourth-quarter comeback for Mount Si, and the Wildcats secured a third-place seed to the SeaKing District Tournament with a dramatic 61-57 win over Interlake.

"Unbelievable. I'm so proud of my kids - they battled, they battled. [We] talked about it at halftime and the end of the third quarter. They were just shooting an incredible percentage against us, and I felt like we were playing good defense and the kids battled their butts off and just never quit. I'm so proud of them," said Phillips, as Mount Si won its sixth in a row.

Johnston scored a whopping game-high 30 points to lead Mount Si, and controlled the paint once again, similar to the Wildcats' last regular season game against Issaquah. Landdeck added 16 to pace Mount Si. As for Brigham and Burke, they each scored 21 to lead the Saints.

The game was pretty close throughout, although Interlake held the lead for most of it. The Wildcats, though, maintained focus and poise, and let their playoff experience do the talking in the fateful fourth quarter. With a very loud Mount Si cheering section behind them, the Wildcats outscored Interlake 18-7 in the final quarter.

"It's more momentum. You never want to lose a game at this time of season, and to have this type of atmosphere and this type of pressure that we battled with this entire game is going to be very beneficial for us, you bet," said Phillips.

Mount Si this week plays in the SeaKing District Tournament.

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