LAUREL - At 6-foot-3, Meridian junior post Kyle Young is rarely the tallest person on the floor - he's barely even the tallest on his own team. But that doesn't stop him from being a big factor on the boards for the Trojans.
"I just keep hustling," Young said. "Got to block out. It's fundamentals for me - fundamentals first."
Fundamentals and hustle translated into 13 rebounds for Young on Monday, Feb. 10, in the first round of the Class 1A Northwest District Tournament against visiting South Whidbey. Young also finished just one point shy of a double-double and added a pair of crucial fourth-quarter assists to help Meridian to a 76-62 victory over the Falcons.
The win sends the Trojans (11-10) on to the district semifinals on Wednesday, Feb. 12, at Lynden Christian, where they'd like to see another big performance from Young against the top-seeded Lyncs.
"Kyle is a kid who I don't know if he understands how good he is, yet," Meridian coach Shane Stacy said. "When he plays with confidence, when he attacks and when he gets a little bit of selfishness in him, which he has very little of that, he really is a special basketball player. What we saw out there is no surprise to the rest of the guys who are out here. Kyle is somebody who can do great things for us."
He did those great things in the fourth quarter, when the Trojans needed them the most.
C.J. Sutfin's buzzer-beating steal and 3-pointer from half court at the end of the third quarter and back-to-back 3s from Parker Collins trimmed Meridian's once-comfortable lead to 57-50 with 6:53 left to play.
But a putback basket by Young stemmed the tide. He followed that up with back-to-back buckets from in the lane to help the Trojans regain some breathing room, building a 62-51 advantage with 5:32 to play.
"My goal is always try to attack the hoop and try to draw fouls - do whatever I can to help the team out," Young said.
Less than two minutes later, that meant finding the open man.
Once the Falcons clawed their way back to within 10, Young kicked out to a wide open Nick Rautenberg, who drained a 3-pointer to make it 66-53 with 3:21 to play.
After another 3 from Collins got South Whidbey within single digits, Young again found Rautenberg, this time driving the lane, for a lay-up and the foul.
"I didn't see an opportunity, so I slipped it back to my open teammate," Young said. "He was wide open, so I gave him the ball."
Rautenberg was one of three Trojans to reach double figures in the scorebook, as he came off the bench for 13.
Alex Martin led the way for Meridian with 21 points, while Blake Briones also had a nice game with 11 points and a game-high six assists. Sam Chambers and Jacob Plagerman each had eight, while Tanner Tutterow scored six, giving the Trojans 19 points from off the bench.
"I think that's pretty big, especially in the playoffs," Stacy said.
So was the 43-22 advantage the Trojans built on the boards.
"It's always our goal to out rebound the other team," Young said. "It gives you a chance to get a lot of second-chance points, and that's what we need."
Meridian didn't need any second chances to open the second quarter.
After spotting the Falcons the first six points of the game, the Trojans took an 18-14 lead by the end of the first quarter. They then opened the second with a 3-pointer from Tutterow. Briones added another 3 on Meridian's second possession, before Rautenberg connected from inside the arc. But the Trojans were just getting started, as Tutterow, Chambers and Martin all hit from 3-point range on their next three possessions.
In all, Meridian hit its first six shots of the period, including five from deep, to build a 35-17 advantage.
"Sometimes that's a double-edged sword, because you start to think that's going to play out the rest of the game," Stacy said. "It didn't play out that way, and we got away from our game plan of attacking the basket and really let them back in it and relaxed a little bit. You're not going to be able to do that against a team like Lynden Christian. They're going to be able to take advantage of that and put you away."
South Whidbey tried to with a 14-1 run to pull back within five, but Martin's buzzer beater gave the Trojans a 38-31 lead at the half, and thanks to Young's big play in the fourth, they were able to keep the scrappy Falcons at arms length the rest of the way.
"We were able to get out there and have some fun tonight," Stacy said. "I think for the most part guys really did their role and did their job."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
MERIDIAN 76, SOUTH WHIDBEY 62
South Whidbey 14 17 13 18 - 62
Meridian 18 20 17 21 - 76
South Whidbey: Kale Reichersamer 0, Nick Bennett 0, Brandon Asay 14, Jordan Parrick 0, Nick French 8, Parker Collins 22, Greg Smith 0, Chandler Sutton 9, C.J. Sutfin 9, 33. Max Friedman 0. Team totals: 23-50 6-11 62.
Meridian: Cody Bachman 0, Jake Plagerman 8, Tanner Tutterow 6, Brady Moore 0, Nick Rautenberg 13, Alex Martin 21, Blake Briones 11, Daniel Young 0, Sam Chambers 8, Devyn Holmes 0, Kyle Young 9, Derek Campfield 0. Team totals: 28-59 13-17 76.
3-ptg: South Whidbey 10 (Collins 4), Meridian 11 (Martin 3). Rebounds: South Whidbey 22 (Sutton 6), Meridian 43 (K. Young 13). Assists: South Whidbey 7 (Asay, French 3), Meridian 13 (Briones 6). Fouls: South Whidbey 17, Meridian 10. Turnovers: South Whidbey 9, Meridian 8.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.