LAUREL - The Sehome boys' basketball team loves to see an opponent sweat.
"We step on their throats," Sehome senior guard Noah Cyr-Moore said. "When we look in their eyes and see panic, we go for the kill."
The Mariners did exactly that Tuesday, Jan. 29, as their full-court trap defense recorded 15 steals in a 69-42 Northwest Conference victory at Meridian.
Charlie Linneman led the way with six steals to go along with his game-high 26 points, while Cyr-Moore logged five thefts and 13 points.
"It's just what they're good at," Meridian coach Shane Stacy said. "It's what they do over the offseason in summer leagues. It's what they do every day in practice. It's what they've been doing for all four years they're in the program. Heck, they're probably even doing it in their AAU program. They're really good at the press, because that is what they do, and they do it very well."
With its performance Tuesday, Sehome (14-4, 7-3 NWC) puts itself in good position to "steal" the conference's No. 3 seed to Class 2A Northwest District Tournament. With games remaining against Lynden Christian on Friday, Feb. 1, and at Burlington-Edison on Tuesday, Feb. 5, the Mariners can finish anywhere from the third seed to fifth in the NWC 2A standings and out of the postseason.
But their chances of making the playoffs certainly improved with Tuesday's win and Squalicum's last-second loss to Lynden Christian on Monday, Jan. 28.
Meridian (8-11, 3-8) likely locks into the Class 1A Northwest District Tournament as the No. 3 seed and will host Cascade Conference No. 2 seed South Whidbey on Tuesday, Feb 5, after wrapping up the regular season Thursday, Jan. 31, at Lynden.
The Trojans can only hope they don't see another trapping press like the one Sehome brought on Tuesday.
"The keys are ball pressure, take away the middle and don't give up the sides," Cyr-Moore said.
The Mariners did all three to perfection against Meridian, using a 2-2-1 trap to start the game and switching to a 1-2-2 later.
"We have some little wrinkles we can throw in when we feel somebody is starting to get a handle on it to turn the pressure up again," Sehome coach A.J. LaBree said.
Regardless of the formation, the thing that makes Sehome's press so effective is the fire and athleticism that they are able to bring to all five positions on the court.
Though the Mariners didn't have as much size as the Trojans, they had an athlete at every position, capable of getting in Meridian ball handlers' faces and forcing the issue, rushing passes, tipping passes and just basically being a pest.
"We're lucky with the guys we have," Cyr-Moore said. "All of us can play any position in our press. The big guys can play in the middle or even up front, and our guards can play on the back line. Everyone is versatile and we all work together."
Nowhere was that better seen than in the final minutes of the first quarter.
Meridian had just battled back to tie the game at 7 with 1:56 to play in the period, when Patrick Carlson found Chad Richter for two of his team-high 19 points.
Linneman answered with a nice post-up move for a bucket at the other end, before getting back and intercepting a long, desperate pass forced by the front line of Sehome's trap. He quickly turned and got a layup with 1:27 to play.
Cyr-Moore then deflected another errant Meridian pass to himself to start the Mariners the other way. Evan Miksovsky ended up finding Gabe Sanchez for a 3-pointer to complete a 7-0 run in only 31 seconds.
Before the quarter was over, another Cyr-Moore steal near midcourt resulted in a buzzer-beating put-back bucket by Linneman to make it 16-7.
"The worst thing you can do is panic, because they sense it," Stacy said.
Sehome didn't let up in the second quarter, and by the end of the half, they had 10 steals, which they turned into 14 points. They added five more steals in the second half, which they turned into six points.
"The great thing about our press is when we turn it around into buckets, that starts to loosen up our offense and spread out their defense," LaBree said.
Add in 10 first-half offensive rebounds leading to 10 second-chance points by the Mariners, and it's easy to see why the Trojans were facing a 35-20 deficit at halftime.
Sehome ended up winning the battle of the boards 35-18, with Miksovsky and Linneman grabbing five each and Willy Lallas and Jake Manson recording four.
Miksovsky also joined Linneman and Cyr-Moore in double figures with 13 points, while Sanchez scored eight.
Edward Garcia had eight for Meridian, which hopes to learn from Thursday's loss.
"We need to keep our identity as a 1A team," Stacy said. "It can kind of be a roller coaster when you're a smaller school playing 2A and 3A teams. You're going to have your setbacks. But the important thing is does it make you a better ball club tomorrow in practice?"
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
SEHOME 69, MERIDIAN 42
Sehome 16 19 23 11 - 69
Meridian 7 13 10 12 - 42
Sehome: Evan Miksovsky 13, Leif Anderson 0, Charlie Linneman 26, Brice Longanecker 3, Noah Cyr-Moore 13, Jake Manson 0, Duncan James 0, Willy Lallas 6, Gabe Sanchez 8, Bo Banner 0, Langston Engle 0. Team totals: 28-55 5-6 69.
Meridian: Alijah Garcia 0, Trevin Todd 0, Jacob Plagerman 0, Kelby Todd 3, Edward Garcia 8, Patrick Carlson 5, Blake Briones 0, Chad Richter 19, Sam Chambers 0, Spencer Blackburn 3, Kyle Young 0, Logan Carlson 4. Team totals: 17-46 8-13 42.
3-ptg: Sehome 8 (Linneman 3, Cyr-Moore 3), Meridian 0. Rebounds: Sehome 35 (Miksovsky 5, Linneman 5), Meridian 18 (P. Carlson 5). Assists: Sehome 8 (Cyr-Moore 3), Meridian 8 (P. Carlson 4). Fouls: Sehome 12, Meridian 7. Turnovers: Sehome 16, Meridian 19.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.