Sehome’s boys’ basketball team showed why it’s so dangerous anytime the Mariners step on the court.
In a 79-65 win over Granger at the Cloud 9 Christmas Classic on Tuesday, Dec. 30, at Lynden Christian High School, four Mariners scored in double figures and two more came within a basket of doing so.
“It’s a big advantage for our team this year,” Sehome coach AJ LaBree said. “When somebody gets in foul trouble, somebody goes down, somebody else will just pick right up and fill their shoes.”
It does, however, make it difficult for LaBree to decide who gets to play and who gets more court time, something he said the boys will have to learn how to deal with as the season progresses.
With nine seniors on the roster, it was inevitable the talent pool for LaBree to draw from would be large and it’s a reason why the Mariners have “high expectations” this year, especially after a pair of wins at the Christmas Classic – the first coming Monday against South Whidbey.
“The first goal is to get to the playoffs,” LaBree said. “Going into league, I wanted to have a positive spin on how we were feeling about the team and ourselves. We accomplished that and it was fun to play two opponents we don’t normally see.”
The two tournament wins were especially important after consecutive non-conference losses before the tournament began.
Even more important was the way Sehome went about getting those wins, most notably in Tuesday’s contest, which LaBree admitted was an unusual setting.
“It’s strange. You play at 3 in the afternoon, small crowd. You don’t have your student section so it’s a little bit of a weird atmosphere,” LaBree said. “I was pleased we were able to get up for it and play hard against a scrappy Granger team.”
After struggling to finish teams off once they get the lead for most of the early season, the Mariners put up 25 points in the third quarter to pull to an 18-point lead.
“We really emphasized energy in the third quarter because our third quarters have been bad in the past but we can’t let down energy,” said Sehome post Leighton Kingma, who had 16 points, nine rebounds and four blocks – all team highs. “We always want to say the score is 0-0 going into the third quarter, that’s key for us.”
When Granger hit two 3s to end the quarter, though, it looked like Sehome once again was letting the lead slip away.
Enter Langston Engle, who started the game on the bench. Engle scored seven of his 12 points in the fourth quarter, as the Mariners cruised to a 21-point lead.
“Langston is just the ultimate hustle guy,” LaBree said. “He comes out there and busts his butt every time he plays.”
He also characterizes what Sehome is all about – unselfish play.
The Mariners tallied 16 assists Tuesday, including six apiece from Leif Anderson, who also scored 14 points, and Tanner Clark.
“They’ll pass up a good shot for a better one. … I think that’s going to go a long way for us this year,” LaBree said. “I thought offensively, we’re starting to click a little bit.”
Seventy-nine points in 32 minutes of play is certainly plenty and the Sehome offense moved the ball well, but it wass the Mariners defense that was probably most impressive.
Granger did score 65 points in the very high-paced game, but the Mariners tallied eight steals and nine blocks against an undersized Spartans squad. Leading the way was Clark, who had four steals and three blocks to go along with 11 points.
“We wanted to take advantage of our size against Granger,” LaBree said. “They’re a team that wants to attack the rim, so it’s nice to have a couple guys who have a really big wingspan that can block some shots.”
It was the 6-foot-6 Kingma who seemed the biggest presence though when he pulled off two highlight-reel blocks that sent the ball flying across the court.
“It’s a great feeling,” Kingma said of connecting on a good block. “I’ve got to be careful though because I’ve gotten into foul trouble before.”
Foul trouble wasn’t a problem this time around for Kingma, who finished with only two fouls.
The only negative for the Mariners, who outrebounded the Spartans 32-24 aided by Logan DeBoo’s nine boards, was when Marcus Montag fell to the ground with 40 seconds left in the game.
He was helped off the court but immediately lied down on the hardwood again and ice was placed on his lower back.
Sehome, which is now 8-3 overall and 2-0 in conference, begins conference play again on Monday, Jan. 5, at home against Meridian.
SEHOME 79, GRANGER 65