For the Mount Si Wildcats boys’ basketball team this year it hasn’t come easy. Last Friday was no exception and it took the heroics of one special senior to save the day for the Wildcats.
Kyle Meuli scored the final five points of the game, hitting a three-pointer to tie and then a lay-up for the win. Mount Si overcame a seven-point deficit in the fourth quarter escaping with a dramatic 58-56 win over a great Chief Sealth Seahawks team in a quarterfinal game at the SeaKing District Tournament at Bellevue Community College. It was a game that will go down as an instant Wildcat classic.
“Well, I knew we were down three and there wasn’t much time left,” said Meuli. “It was about a minute, minute and a half or so, and I was open. Coach Phillips always tells me, ‘shoot it when you’re open’ and it was just there so I took the three and tied it. The lay-up was actually created by Kyle [Clearman] and Kevin [Englund],” continued Meuli. “Kevin drew a double team, which left it open for the back door so I was able to make a lay-up,” the senior said.
Meuli scored 13 points and picked up seven rebounds; Englund led all scorers with 19 points for Mount Si, now 20-3 on the year with the win.
The Wildcats started out the game well. Key baskets by Meuli and Clearman helped propel Mount Si to an 11-5 lead after one, and it had all the makings of a rout. Sealth, however, answered in a big way in the second quarter. Melvin Jones scored 10 of his team-high 17 in the frame and that helped Sealth take a surprising 30-24 lead at the half.
“I told the guys at halftime, ‘I thought we were playing well,’ they were making shots,” said coach Garrick Phillips. “They made a lot of big shots and just kept the pressure on us. “I just tried to encourage the kids to keep the course.”
Mount Si stayed the course in the third quarter, only allowing one field goal by Sealth in the entire stanza. Of the eight Seahawk third-quarter points, six of them came at the free throw line. That tough defense, combined with clutch efforts by senior Ryan Reilly offensively, sent the game to the final quarter tied at 38-38. Reilly finished with seven points, all of which were scored in the third quarter.
It was a seesaw battle for a little over the first three minutes of the final frame as the teams changed leads six times and tied twice. Then, with about 4:30 left, Sealth started to pull away. A big three-pointer put the Seahawks up 51-46. Reggie Rogers, the Sealth star, then scored a basket to add more to the lead. But Englund hit two clutch shots and with 3:13 left, suddenly the Wildcats were right back in it. Rogers finished with a double-double, 13 points and 10 rebounds, to pace the Seahawks.
Englund hit a pair of free throws to make the game 54-53 Sealth, then the Seahawks hit a basket to make it 56-53. With 1:18 left in regulation, Meuli hit his huge three to tie the game at 56-56. Sealth turned the ball over on the ensuing possession, and that set up Meuli’s game-winning basket with about 10 seconds left in the contest. The Seahawks had time for one last shot, which missed off the back of the iron, and “Wildcat Nation” celebrated wildly. The celebration continued well after as the team was given a standing ovation heading to the locker room.
“Those fans are always loud,” said Meuli. “We’re getting more and more people when we get closer and closer to state, and it’s like the whole Valley is coming out to see us now,” he continued.
Sealth’s efforts cannot go unnoticed. The Seahawks played their hearts out, and their fans were very spirited, as well. Clearman believes the Seahawks can’t be taken for granted. “Chief Sealth is a great team, really athletic. I expect them to do well and make some noise with the rest of the tournament,” he said.
Mount Si was scheduled to play Seattle Prep Tuesday in a winner-to-state game. The Wildcats may play games Thursday and/or Saturday depending on the outcome of the Tuesday contest. Thursday’s contests are winner-to-state, loser out.