Wildcat boys pass the test

Each week, the Mount Si Wildcat boys' basketball team continues to makes things happen and as they do that, more people notice. Ranked highly in a couple of state highschool basketball polls, the Wildcats last week faced their toughest tests yet, and if the results are any indication, look for this team to make noise long into February.

Going to Mercer Island and playing the Islanders on their home floor is no easy task for any team, Mount Si included. But the Wildcats didn't let that stop them from posting a rather strong win over the Islanders. Kyle Clearman scored a game high 19 points, and Kevin Englund and Tommy Abbott pitched in 14 each as Mount Si held the lead for much of the contest and rolled over MI last Tuesday night, 74-56.

The key for Clearman, a senior, was strong outside shooting; he hit four of five shots from outside the three-point line. Fellow seniors Englund and Tylor Littlejohn each added nine rebounds as the Wildcats outrebounded MI 39-22.

Kael Kristof scored 14 points, and Grant Hope scored 12 to lead the Islanders. Leroy Lutu scored 13 off the bench to pace MI.

Last Friday, Mount Si hosted Bellevue. Last Tuesday, Bellevue suffered its first league loss to Issaquah, so a Wildcat win would mean a two-game edge for first place in the conference.

In a hard-fought game, the Wildcats got a 15-point, nine-rebound performance from Englund, and used stifling defense to pull away in the second half for a 63-47 victory over the Wolverines.

"The first half, they were pretty successful in the post; their post guys had some success, and we shored that up a little bit in the second half and toughened up," said Mount Si coach Garrick Phillips.

Senior Kyle Meuli said defense was a focus throughout the week.

"We made that a focus during practice this week to play some good defense, some good low post, because they got some big guys, and just swarm on that ball and force them to make bad shots," Meuli said.

The Wildcats struggled some on offense in the first half as several shot attempts went in and out of the basket. But Mount Si never lost control of the game and took a two-point lead into halftime. The team was reminded about their defense.

"Coach [Phillips] talked about how our post defense wasn't as good as it could be, because they got some huge guys, so, I mean, the post defense totally improved in the second half and when you shut down their post, they don't have any outside shooters," said senior Ryan Reilly.

Clearman scored the first five points of the second half for Mount Si, and the Wildcats began to pull away. Bellevue tried to respond a couple of times, but the Wildcat defense took care of business.

Clearman finished with 12 points, and Reilly added 11. John McGough scored 15 to lead the Wolverines before fouling out near the end of the contest.

Now that Mount Si has passed their toughest tests yet, keeping the team focused on the ultimate prize of the school's first state boys' hoops title in nearly 30 years becomes a concern. Phillips says his team is taking all of the wins and increased attention in stride. Reporters from the Post-Intelligencer and the Seattle Times were at Friday's game.

"The record is great, and the intensity's great, but we're honestly just taking it - it's an old stupid cliche - one game at a time, but these kids are so businesslike that I just have to keep saying that," Phillips said.

The Wildcats host Issaquah to wrap up their three-game home stand Friday. Tip time is at 7:30 p.m.

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