The Mount Si Wildcat boys’ basketball team continues to adjust to life under new coach Sloan Strohl. The team is still experiencing growing pains, as evidenced by a continuing problem with turnovers in the Dec. 5, game with Mercer Island. However, the tough defense and general courage of this group made this game a lot tighter than could have been expected considering how good the Islanders are supposed to be. Things appear to be looking up possibly as a result.
Mercer Island used a 20-5 second quarter advantage to take a 36-21 lead into halftime, but the Wildcats clawed back, only to fall just short at the end. MI escaped with a 67-65 win, largely due to clutch free throw shooting from junior guard Matt Schut, who scored 26 points.
The loss was frustrating for Strohl. “We’ve got to stop beating ourselves. I think that’s kind of a trademark of a young team, but the guys showed some guts and guts is going to have to be what we run on for the first little bit here until we figure out our offense,” Strohl said.
Junior Sam Hunston said the tight game may be the start of something good. “We started out great and kind of had a slow second quarter, but we showed a lot of potential in the third at the end of the game and hopefully we’ll get to move forward into our next game with some momentum,” Hunston said.
Tommy Abbott scored 23 and added five rebounds to lead a losing effort for the Wildcats, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. Blake Hepner added nine points to pace Mount Si before fouling out. The play of the younger players impressed senior Brian Dec. “Our two freshmen stepped up really good tonight. Tanner (Riley) and Luc (Zupan), they both played really well.”
Lack of discipline also was a factor for the Wildcats, as two technical fouls were called on Mount Si players. Hunston said that there’s a way for the Wildcats to avoid this problem in the future. “We’ve just got to keep our heads in the game and with support from our teammates, just keep our head in the game and don’t worry about the calls when they are made,” Hunston said.
Leroy Lutu, the Islanders’ best player, scored 14 to pace the MI effort. Mount Si shot just under 50 percent from the floor but was out-rebounded 34-31.
The Wildcats went to Liberty last Friday, and fell 50-43 to the Patriots. Mount Si fell to 1-3, 1-2 in Kingco 3A, with the loss. Abbott led the Wildcats with 19 points. Mount Si was down 12 at halftime and could not rally from that deficit.
The Wildcats are at Interlake Friday. Tip is at 7:30 p.m. Interlake has a mostly senior-laden roster, led by forward Scott Galland and guard Isaiah Barber. Once again, this is expected to be a difficult challenge for the Wildcats.