When Squalicum coach Dave Dickson was asked how comfortable he is with sophomore Darious Powell shooting as many open 3s as he gets, the coach smiled, then paused before answering.
“He’s happy to see zone defense,” Dickson replied.
Powell for the second straight week was lethal from the 3-point arc, connecting on five of Squalicum seven first-half triples to help the Storm build a big early lead it held onto for a 63-41 Class 2A State Tournament quarterfinal win against Olympic on Thursday, March 5, at the SunDome in Yakima.
Powell, who picked apart the myriad zones Olympic implemented during the first two quarters, finished with a game-high 23 points on 6 of 10 shooting from deep. Damek Mitchell scored 22 points to go with eight assists, and Josiah Westbrook finished with nine points, six rebounds and four assists.
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“I don’t just like it for myself,” said Powell of seeing zone defenses. “I mean, we have a team full of shooters, so whenever we see a zone, we just love to come out and shoot.”
The win advances Squalicum to the Class 2A State Tournament semifinals, where it will face Clarkston at 5:30 p.m. Friday, March 6 for the right to compete for a state championship.
The Storm finished shooting 46.2 percent from the field, but Squalicum’s defense and gritty rebounding against a longer Olympic team were just as responsible for the team’s lopsided win.
Dickson knew the potential for his undersized group to have a hard time facing Olympic 6-foot-6 forwards Jumier Johnson and Damarius Johnson, but Squalicum was only outrebounded 35-34.
Squalicum crashed the boards collectively. Mitchell, Westbrook and Chris Paz each hauled in six rebounds, and the Storm’s stingy defense, which held Olympic to 28.8 percent shooting, forced 18 turnovers.
“The boys followed the game plan really well,” Dickson said. “Our defensive game plan was solid and well executed, and I thought the rebounding was exceptional. I thought that was a huge difference in the game.”
The Storm’s hot shooting and strong defense showed from the start, as Squalicum built an early 10-2 advantage and led the entire game. Powell had eight first-quarter points, including two of his 3s, and Squalicum led 16-12 heading into the second.
Squalicum’s transition game, led by Mitchell and Westbrook in the open court, helped the Storm build a commanding second-quarter lead. Powell added 12 points in the second, and most came off drive-and-dish opportunities.
“Everything else flows if you hit those 3s,” Dickson said. “The momentum kind of builds, and also when you make your shots you get the chance to set your defense and take a minute to concentrate on what is the task at hand.”
Squalicum outscored Olympic 23-11 in the second and led 39-23 at half. Powell (20 points), Mitchell (12) and Westbrook (seven) recorded all of the Storm’s first-half points.
Although Squalicum led by 16 at the break, the lead didn’t feel safe.
Last week the Storm owned a double-digit state regional halftime lead over White River before allowing the Hornets to creep right back in the contest.
“Yes we did,” said Dickson when asked if last week’s squandered lead was brought up at intermission. “We had that discussion at halftime.”
Dickson’s message clearly worked. The Storm extended its lead to 55-33 heading into the fourth thanks to a 7-2 scoring run to start the quarter. Squalicum forward Harper Moore scored all five of his points in the third, and the big lead allotted Dickson the luxury of unloading his bench late.
Squalicum’s defense ended up holding the Trojans to 19 points under their season scoring average.
“In practice all week we’ve been focusing on body stops, getting in front of our man, not letting them beat us” Powell said, “so I think we took that from practice last week and put it into the game today.”