For the better part of a decade, Squalicum boys’ basketball and the state tournament were synonymous.
And not only were the Storm making it to the state tournament, it was making it deep into the state tournament. Four straight years, Squalicum made it to at least the state semifinals, and it won back-to-back state titles in 2009 and 2010 and played for a third straight title in 2011.
The Storm looked primed to make another run at a title in 2012, before Lindbergh broke its heart in the newly formed regional round of the state tournament.
Then the unthinkable happened — for two straight seasons Squalicum didn’t make it out of the ultra-competitive Northwest District. And this year’s team desperately wanted to end that.
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“I think we came together as a team,” Squalicum sophomore Darious Powell said. “Our seniors came in and helped our young players mature. It meant so much to us to get back to state.”
Squalicum did just that, using two crucial first-half runs to pull away from Archbishop Murphy in a winner-to-state game in the Class 2A Northwest District Tournament on Wednesday, Feb. 18, and rolled to a 65-49 victory and earn a trip back to the regional round of the state tournament, ending its state drought.
“It’s been a dry spell,” Storm coach Dave Dickson said. “It means a lot. Nine years in a row being in the state tournament. It might mean more to me than it does to the players, simply because I’m more aware of the history. We’re a young team, and having this experience will give them a look something we haven’t seen in a couple of years because of the dry spell the last two years.”
Before it heads back to state, the Storm (16-7) will face Northwest Conference foe Sehome in the third-place game of the district tournament at 6 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 20, at Mount Vernon High School to determine seeding into the regional round.
Squalicum can thank a pair of first-half runs for getting it into that third-place game and back into the state tournament.
Holding an 8-5 lead less than three minutes in, Dickson sent guard Josh Vail into the game to replace Harper Moore, giving the Storm four guards on the floor — Vail and starters Powell, Damek Mitchell and Josiah Westbrook.
“I think that really brought our team’s quickness out,” said Powell, who scored a game-high 21 points. “We really ran the floor and got good stops on defense.”
It certainly didn’t take look for that lineup to pay dividends, as Mitchell scored on the next three trips down the floor, before Vail capped an 8-0 run over the three-minute span.
One defense, Squalicum got a steal from Powell and forced two other turnovers.
“We put a little pressure on them,” Dickson said. “We ran a full-court press and a three-quarter-court press. We saw Anacortes have some success with pressing them. They’re very quick, but they’re young. ... We thought we might be able to get them off balance a little bit.”
The second run came late in the second quarter and was all Powell.
It started when he hit a 3 off an assist from Mitchell with 2:40 to play. Next time down the floor, it was Westbrook that found him for an open 3.
“It was fun being out there,” Powel said. “Damek and Josiah were looking for me the whole time. They were like, ‘You’ve got the hot hand.” I just kept doing it and giving them credit.”
And they kept getting him the ball.
Next time down the court, Powell hit a running jumper, before he wrapped up an 11-2 run with another 3.
“You could see the flames coming off him while he was running back down to play defense,” Dickson said. “Shooting like that take care of all kinds of difficulties a team might have. Darious was on fire there.”
Squalicum took a 36-21 lead into halftime and Archbishop Murphy never cut that lead to single digits in the second half.
Westbrook joined Powell in double figures with 15 points and four assists, while Mitchell filled out the stat sheet with 10 points, a game-high 12 rebounds, two assists, five steals and a blocked shot.
“That’s just another night for Damek,” Dickson said. “He does so many intangibles that don’t even show up in the stats.”
Squalicum also got a solid contribution off the bench from Ben Tripp, who had eight points and five rebounds.
Squalicum 65, Archbishop Murphy 49
Squalicum: Harper Moore 3, Noah Westerhoff 0, Josh Vail 2, Ben Wolters 0, Darious Powell 21, Damek Mitchell 10, Josiah Westbrook 15, Ben Tripp 8, Chris Paz 6, Raja Sidhau 0, Connor Sage 0, Creighton Kaui 0. Totals: 25-56 9-16 65.
Archbishop Murphy: Abraham Lucas 6, D’Andre Bryant 15, Connor Sand 0, Jaylon Carter 2, Chase White 1, Houston Schmutz 0, Ben Thacker 3, Joshua Parafina 11, Andrew Carter 2, Darion Joseph 2, Bailey Halpin 2, Anfernee Gurley 5. Totals: 17-51 12-15 49.
3-point field goals — Squalicum: 6 (Powell 5); Archbishop Murphy: 3 (Parafina 2). Rebounds — Squalicum: 31 (Mitchell 12); Archbishop Murphy: 38 (Lucas 11). Assists — Squalicum: 11 (Westbrook 4); Archbishop Murphy: 3 (Carter, Parafina, Gurley). Fouls — Squalicum: 14; Archbishop Murphy: 14. Turnovers — Squalicum: 9; Archbishop Murphy: 14.