Meridian boys’ basketball coach Shane Stacy found himself answering a simple question with a profound reply.
“What would you have thought, had you known before your first district playoff game that Alex Martin would score three points, and yet you would win by 28?” Stacy was asked.
Stacy needed only a couple of seconds to answer: “You know, I would have believed it. I really would have.”
That’s how much potential he feels his crew of athletes has.
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Martin, who came in averaging nearly 21 points, played a superb floor game. His teammates expressed their thanks and thrilled a home crowd with 23 for 39 shooting including 11 3-pointers in Meridian’s 60-32 win over South Whidbey in a Class 1A District 1 Tournament opener on Monday, Feb. 9, at Meridian.
The Trojans (13-9) — who showed how they gave Lynden, Squalicum and Ferndale all they could handle in tight Meridian losses — will play at Cascade Conference champion King’s (18-2, 14-0) in Shoreline on Tuesday, Feb. 10, for a spot in the district title game.
“And what would you have said?” when Martin — who took only four shots — was asked the same question Stacy answered so well.
“Cool!” he said with a smile. His answer matched his slick overall game.
Martin, a quick 6-foot-3 senior shooting guard, showed he likely could play any position well. Martin had eight rebounds, five assists, consistently tough defense and no turnovers while setting up his teammates time after time.
“We believe in ourselves,” Martin said. “I wasn’t needed to score tonight, so I just made passes.”
Indeed, Meridian vividly displayed its improvement after a rugged season against perhaps the state’s strongest 2A league competition, top to bottom. The Northwest Conference coaches talked about that all season.
Forwards Nick Rautenberg and Kyle Young and guard Cody Bachman, all seniors, combined for 22 points on only 8-for-13 shooting, with three 3-pointers for Rautenberg and two by Bachman.
Meanwhile, 6-foot-5 junior Derek Campfield shot 6 for 7 for 13 points in his most productive effort as his teammates often found him open.
“We came through together,” said Bachman. “It’s been good to push ourselves in our league, and Shane’s doing a great job.”
The Trojans’ focus showed after South Whidbey (9-12) — which received 17 points from standout senior forward Parker Collins — used seven points by Collins to pull within 20-19 three minutes into the second quarter.
The Trojans, however, didn’t seem the least bit fazed.
“This was the first time we’ve put together four quarters in a while,” Stacy said. “We played with focus. In the locker room before the game, I felt the team understood the magnitude of this game. We played under control, and that started with Alex.”
Sixth man Gursewak Singh, a sophomore point guard, popped in his second 3-pointer of the second quarter, starting a 12-2 run. Campbell gave the Trojans their largest first-half lead when he hit from the corner at the halftime buzzer off a pass from Martin.
The run, it turned out, wasn’t over. The Trojans earned a 39-21 advantage on a Campfield follow, a Rautenberg 3 and a Young layup while holding the Falcons scoreless for nearly five minutes to open the second half.
“We stuck to our game plan,” said Martin. “It was one of our better games. We just played our half court offense” — which was what South Whidbey’s style called for from Meridian.
Meridian’s bench contributed 22 points, with eight by junior guard Brady Moore and five by senior guard Tanner Tutterrow.
Tutterrow typified Meridian’s heads-up approach when he saved a high pass in the corner, then alertly launched a high-arch shot that fell threw for a 3 at the third-quarter buzzer. The crowd went nuts, feeling they had seen more than their money’s worth.
King’s may be a solid favorite in the semifinals, but as Stacy said, “We feel we can compete with anybody. We feel we’ll make sure King’s knows they’ve played Meridian.”
That, indeed, was how pretty much all the NWC teams felt this season.
Meridian 60, South Whidbey 32
South Whidbey: Parker Collins 17, Lewis Pope 3, Chandler Sutton 6, Mo Hamsa 3, Maxfield Friedman 0, Donovan Miller 3, Tyler Dow 0, Ricky Muzzy 0, Cody Russell 0, Jared Eckert 0, Anton Klein 0, Tyler Heggenes 0. Totals: 13-37 2-4 32.
Meridian: Derek Campfield 13, Alex Martin 3, Nick Rautenberg 9, Cody Bachman 6, Kyle Young 7, Gursewak Singh 6, Daniel Young 3, Brady Moore 8, Tanner Tutterrow 5, Thomas Utschinski 0, Marcus McGuinn 0, Josh Plagerman 0. Totals: 23-39 3-12 60.
3-point goals: South Whidbey 4 (Collins 3); Meridian 11 (Rautenberg 3). Rebounds: South Whidbey 14 (Hamsa 4); Meridian 26 (Martin 8). Assists: South Whidbey 4 (Collins 3); Meridian 14 (Martin 5). Fouls: South Whidbey 7; Meridian 11. Turnovers: South Whidbey 12; Meridian 9.