Squalicum’s offense hardly looked like one of the most potent attacks in the Northwest Conference during the first half of its top-10 road matchup with Anacortes.
The No. 3-ranked Storm struggled navigating a new Seahawks’ defense Squalicum coach Dave Dickson said he hadn’t seen before.
But with much help from standout point guard Damek Mitchell, the Storm returned to form in the second half and earned a huge 73-64 NWC win over No. 6 Anacortes on Friday, January 22, at Anacortes High School.
“We just couldn’t find our rhythm,” said Mitchell of his team’s first-half play. “We had a talk at halftime to play with joy and just have fun, and I think we willed the game. That was a big win for us tonight.”
Mitchell finished with a game-high 28 points and seven rebounds, scoring 15 of his 28 during the second quarter. Josiah Westbrook finished with 12 points and 11 rebounds, Darious Powell had 12 points and Creighton Kaui logged 10.
With an exception to the score being tied at 18 briefly in the second quarter, Squalicum trailed the entire first half, but the Storm finished the third quarter on a 14-6 run to take a 50-47 edge into the fourth.
Anacortes twice pulled to within one point, but a 3 from Mitchell with 2:30 to play but the Storm up 63-57, and Squalicum closed the game with strong defense and clutch free-throw shooting.
“Damek is a consummate point guard and a consummate competitor,” Dickson said. “He’ll do whatever the team needs for us to have success. He’s got a valentine bigger than February 14th. He makes me look really smart sometimes, and I appreciate that.”
Turning point of the game
Squalicum didn’t get its first lead until late in the third quarter. A 3-pointer from big man Ben Wolters cut Anacortes’ lead to 46-45 with 2:55 left in the third, Josiah Westbrook tied the game with a free throw, Darious Powell got a layup off a Creighton Kaui Steal and a basket from Westbrook put Squalicum in front 50-47 entering the fourth.
What it means
The win essentially puts Squalicum in a three-way tie with Lynden and Lynden Christian for first place in the Northwest Conference. Squalicum, LC and Lynden each have one loss. Squalicum lost to Lynden Christian and Lynden beat Lynden Christian.
Unsung hero of the game
Squalicum needed a frontcourt player to step up in order to combat Anacortes’ active play in the in the paint, and Ben Wolters proved to be the answer. Besides hitting a rare 3, he took a pair of charges, had a big block and hauled in a few important rebounds. He finished with five points and drew high praise from coach Dave Dickson.
Squalicum returns to action next week with a game against city-rival Sehome at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26, at Squalicum High School.
Squalicum 73, Anacortes 64
Squalicum: Josiah Westbrook 12, Noah Westerhoff 0, Josh Vail 0, Ben Wolters 5, Darious Powell 12, Damek Mitchell 28, Creighton Kaui 10, Giovanni Melley 6, Connor Sage 0.
Anacortes: Eli Moore 0, Derek Vance 18, Tyler Blouin 8, Jesse Keltner 2, Trystan Lowry 8, Jacob South 16, Camden McLaughlin 5, David Rodriguez 7.
3-point field goals — Squalicum: 6 (Mitchell 3); Anacortes: 9 (Vance 4). Rebounds — Squalicum: 27 (Westbrook 11); Anacortes: 24 (D. Rodriguez/South 6). Assists — Squalicum: 12 (Kaui/Wolters 3); Anacortes: 12 (D. Rodriguez 4). Fouls — Squalicum: 13; Anacortes: 19 (South). Turnovers — Squalicum: 3; Anacortes: 8.