Revisiting Squalicum’s non-conference loss to city-rival Sehome a month-and-a-half ago shows just how far the Storm have come.
With no senior guards, Squalicum’s backcourt from game to game has underwent an ever-developing maturation process.
All along, though, the talent has been there, and with another crack at Sehome and the opportunity to notch a premium Northwest Conference win, first-year Squalicum guard Josiah Westbrook and sophomore running mate Damek Mitchell were near flawless.
The combo went for a combined 52 points, Squalicum used a key third-quarter scoring run to pull ahead and earned a 78-68 NWC win over the Mariners on Tuesday, Jan. 27, at Sehome High School.
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“It was really big for us,” Westbrook said of the win, “because after the we lost the Bellingham game we felt really down. Our goal is a league championship, so we told ourselves we got to go out and win our next three.”
Beating the Mariners (12-5, 6-2 NWC) was the next step for Squalicum (12-4, 7-1 NWC), which handed Anacortes its first league loss last week. The Storm trail the Seahawks by a half-game and are tied for second with Lynden.
Much of the reason for the Storm’s quick rise has been the team’s ability to grow each game, and on Tuesday Westbrook’s and Mitchell’s development was exhibited.
Westbrook poured in a season-high 31 points with the help of six 3-pointers, and Mitchell added 21 to go with team highs of nine rebounds and four assists. Thirteen of Westbrook’s points came in the fourth quarter on a hot-shooting night for Squalicum, which was 19 of 23 from the free-throw line.
“Probably just feeling it tonight,” said Westbrook when asked what was behind his performance. “Teammates found me, did a good of finding me and it was real good.”
Storm coach Dave Dickson praised his junior’s ability to play within the game’s flow, but to the Squalicum coach Westbrook’s defense was more paramount to the win.
Sehome’s Leif Anderson was trouble for the Storm the first time the two rivals meet, when the Mariners won 77-63. But this time Westbrook, who guarded Anderson most of the night, prevented the Sehome senior guard from hurting Squalicum too badly.
Anderson finished with 15 points, while Mariners sophomore Marcus Montag scored a team-high 22 to go with six boards.
“He worked really hard on Leif Anderson, and Anderson is a heck of a player,” Dickson said. “He had to work for his 15 points tonight. And offensively, Josiah does such a nice job of taking his shots in the flow of what we are doing.”
Even with Westbrook’s and Mitchell’s big nights, the Storm were trailing 33-31 at half, but Squalicum distanced itself with a 10-0 run to start the third. The run featured five straight points by Mitchell and buckets by Josh Vail and Noah Westerhoff.
Later back-to-back scores by Westbrook gave Squalicum a 51-39 advantage with 1:10 left in the third quarter.
“I felt like we needed to just be more efficient offensively and we got a few stops, and we were able to string together a couple hoops,” Dickson said. “Guys made plays on both ends, and we grabbed some critical rebounds. ... I think that was the difference, that third quarter.”
Nine points was the closest Sehome came in the fourth. Seemingly every time the Mariners made a momentum-building play, Squalicum answered, especially from Westbrook, who converted three of his six 3s in the final frame.
“I thought we played OK,” Sehome coach AJ LaBree said. “I’m not disappointed really in our effort. ... They shot the ball really well, and sometimes that’s the way it goes. Westbrook got hot, and it’s not like we were just letting him shoot wide-open shots. He was pulling up with a guy on him. A couple of those go out, we go down and score, you got a different ball game.”
Squalicum 78, Sehome 68
Squalicum: Harper Moore 9, Noah Westerhoff 7, Josh Vail 2, Darious Powell 0, Damek Mitchell 21, Josiah Westbrook 31, Ben Tripp 3, Chris Paz 4. Totals: 24-54 19-23 78.
Sehome: Steven Thibou 0, Langston Engle 10, Logan Deboo 0, Elijah Andrushenko 9, Sam Carroll 4, Leif Anderson 15, Duncan James 0, Marcus Montag 22, Tanner Clark 6. Totals: 25-56 14-29 68.
3-point field goals — Squalicum: 8 (Westbrook 6); Sehome: 4 (Anderson 3). Rebounds — Squalicum: 31 (Mitchell 9); Sehome: 34 (Andrushenko 9). Assists — Squalicum: 7 (Mitchell 4); Sehome: 3 (three with 1). Fouls — Squalicum: 16; Sehome: 20 (Montag). Turnovers — Squalicum: 9; Sehome: 9.