MOUNT VERNON - Senior Evan Miksovsky fills out a stat sheet really nicely for the Sehome boys' basketball team.
On Thursday, Feb. 20, in a winner-to-state game of the Class 2A Bi-District Tournament, he scored 16 points to go with his seven rebounds, five assists and four steals.
But the one area Miksovsky would like to improve on the most? Free throw shooting. Through the first 31 minutes on Thursday against Archbishop Murphy, he hit just three of the 10 shots he attempted from the not-so-charitable line.
Needless to say, the Wildcats targeted him as they attempted to claw their way back into the game late - so much so that they had Conner Longoria, the man who had almost single-handedly willed them back into contention with 16 points and 12 rebounds, take his fifth foul to put Miksovsky on the line and stop the clock with 33.5 seconds remaining.
"I was thinking, 'Oh dear, I've got to make these or this could be quite the game,'" Miksovsky said. "They were big free throws, and I was just happy I got them to go down."
Miksovsky's free throws capped off a big night and helped the Mariners hold on for a 60-53 victory that allowed them to clinch a spot in the regionals of the 2A state tournament. Sehome, which heads to the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2008, will play Anacortes at 6 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 22, at Mount Vernon High School to determine which team will enter as the bi-district's Nos. 3 and 4 seeds.
"I thought we could do it (make it to state) from the very beginning of the season, but there were ups and downs in the season," said Miksovsky, who is the only senior on Sehome roster. "We just stuck with it, and we ended up getting there."
The same could be said of the way they played in Thursday's game.
It may not have been a thing of beauty for Sehome - at least not in the second half - but it got the job done.
"We're happy to get a win this time of the season," Mariners coach A.J. LaBree said. "Any way we can get, a win's a win whether we win by 10 or 20. I'm not exactly pleased with our play in the second half. I'm going to have to go back and look at the film and see exactly what happened, but Archbishop hung in there, and they made it interesting. We're just happy this time of year to be moving on."
The reason Sehome (17-6) is moving on is the way it played in the first half.
From the outset, the Mariners seemed a step or two quicker than the Wildcats.
Nowhere was that seen better than on the defensive end of the court, where Sehome held Murphy to just 16 first-half shots, four of which it made. The Mariners' trapping defense smothered the Wildcats, as they turned the ball over 12 times in the first 16 minutes.
"I really just think they weren't ready for the pressure," Miksovsky said. "Our defense, everybody knows in the league we're going to come at you hard. That's what we did, and they really seemed to struggle hard."
Sehome was almost as impressive on the offensive end, as it moved the ball crisply and found open shooters, who were either able to hit outside jumpers or penetrate to score or get to the foul line.
Most impressive was the way the Mariners handled the ball, as they did not have a turnover until just 25 seconds remained in the half, when Murphy's Anfernee Gurley picked up a steal under the Wildcats' basket.
The result was a 31-12 halftime lead for Sehome.
"You could tell we were a step quicker in all facets of the game for at least the second quarter, when we really went on our run," LaBree said. "We caught a little momentum and rode it there, and next thing you know we're up 20 and going in into the half and probably feeling a little too good about ourselves."
In fact, LaBree and the team re-emerged from the halftime locker room with 4:30 still on the clock.
"When your game plan works, I think it's foolish to go change anything and out coach yourself," LaBree said. "The second half we didn't quite step up. We just kept doing the same things. They started to adjust and hit some shots and got a little more comfortable with the pressure we were putting on them."
It was slow and almost unnoticeable at first, as ATM slowly crept back into the game, trimming four points off Sehome's lead by the end of the third quarter, thanks to six points each from Nolan Rogge and Longoria, who continued to roll in the fourth quarter, when he scored eight more before fouling out.
A number of Longoria's points came on put backs, as the Wildcats ended up out rebounding Sehome 41-35, despite Miksovsky and Duncan James each grabbing seven boards.
When Chase White hit a wide-open 3-pointer on a nice cross-court feed from Longoria with 45 seconds to play, Sehome's once comfortable lead was suddenly only five, 56-51.
That's when Longoria was asked to foul Miksovsky, who in turn answered the challenge.
"He's a just a game changer out there," LaBree said of Miksovsky. "He knocks down a few free throws, he probably has 25 points. I just feel better when he's on the court. His defense, his intensity, the fact he can handle it and he's strong. He's our leader and we need him down the stretch every game."
D'Andre Bryant scored on a quick lay-up, but Leif Anderson capped off his game-high 21 points by hitting a jumper from the left elbow to ice the game for Sehome and secure a trip to regionals.
"I think it's great," LaBree said. "We set a couple goals at the start. First goal was somehow, some way in this Northwest Conference was try to make it to districts. Second goal, try to make it out of district. We did that. I don't care if it's first place, third place, fourth place, we're still playing."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
SEHOME 60, ARCHBISHOP MURPHY 53
Sehome 14 17 18 11 - 60
Archbishop Murphy 9 3 22 19 - 53
Sehome: Evan Miksovsky 16, Langston Engle 0, Marcus Montag 0, Elijah Andrushenko 5, Sam Carroll 4, Leif Anderson 21, Duncan James 8, Logan Deboo 2, Tanner Clark 4, Leighton Kingma 0. Team totals: 21-59 10-22 60.
Home: Abe Lucas 0, D'Andre Bryant 2, Connor Sand, 3, Nolan Rogge 6, Chase White 10, Conner Longoria 16, Josh Parafina 8, Ben Thacker 2, Anfernee Gurley 6. Team totals: 18-36 5-18 53.
3-ptg: Sehome 8 (Anderson 5), Archbishop Murphy 6 (White 2, Parafina 2). Rebounds: Sehome 35 (Miksovsky 7, James 7), Archbishop Murphy 41 (Longoria 12). Assists: Sehome 11 (Miksovsky 5), Archbishop Murphy 6 (Bryant 4). Fouls: Sehome 15, Archbishop Murphy 16 (Longoria fouled out). Turnovers: Sehome 9, Archbishop Murphy 20.