West Seattle victorious over Lincoln Abes claiming third place
BY GERARDO BOLONG
Special to the West Seattle Herald
TACOMA - Ability to adjust propelled the West Seattle Wildcats to a historic 66-54 Sat., March 4, comeback boys basketball victory against the Lincoln Abes who had entered the 2017 WIAA/Dairy Farmers of Washington/Les Schwab Tires Hardwood Classic tournament unbeaten before being deflated by No. 1 in the nation Nathan Hale in the Fri. semifinals.
With the courageous comeback, the Wildcats claimed the third place state trophy which is the highest all-time finish in school history. In the 1970 state championship AAA tournament which was conducted under a different format, West Seattle was undefeated heading into the final four at Hec Edmundson Pavilion. The Wildcats lost a tight 63-62 decision to Snohomish while Pasco had to reach into overtime to defeat Aberdeen 62-59. Snohomish would then upset Pasco and the Aberdeen Bobcats, led by Washington state player of the year Steve Soike, beat Roger Wong-led West Seattle in the third-fourth game.
This new heights achievement in WS began in the aftermath of Friday's loss to Garfield at the buzzer and the Lincoln came out more energized to lead 25-12 after the first quarter and stretched its difference to 16 points at one juncture.
The faster tempo was set as little drama seemed to exist about the final result.
At the 2:46 mark of the second quarter Abdullahi Mohamed of WS was called for a player controlled foul on a slam dunk.
For Mohamed, it felt like a turning point in the game.
"I felt that that slam dunk plays was a turning point," he said. "We picked up our game after that."
Tyler Lenzie brought the Wildcats within 35-25 on his bucket, but the Abes accelerated away to a 40-26 halftime lead to stall the West Seattle momentum. Trailing by 15 points early in the third quarter, the Wildcat defense began to work wonders while the offense regained composure for crisp passes and also demonstrated an ability to up the pace when needed.
Yusuf Mohamed capped an 8-0 surge with a basket that returned WS into a single-digit deficit of 43-35.
Continuing to adjust their style of play behind the leadership of Aaron Pryor, West Seattle kept whittling away make the ever shortening gap 51-46 at the end of three quarters.
Senior Yusuf Mohamed who ended his WS career with 17 points and nine rebounds felt great about the way the team closed out.
"Coach K talked about playing (better) defense at halftime," said Mohamed. We came out playing softly on defense and started to play defense together."
Pryor fired home a 3-pointer from a left angle to tie the score at 52-all as 5:55 remained in regulation. Yusuf Mohamed popped home a short range jumper as further fuel for a 14-2 run and 61-52 dominance with 1:44 left.
Forcing Lincoln into gambling defensive strategy, WS closed out the game on a 5-2 spurt to make the final score reflect more game advantage than heretofore instituted.
"At halftime we talked about how it as time to leave it all on the court," said Wildcat coach Keffrey Fazio. "I wish I could put my finger on one thing (that changed, but it was choice. Our kids were not going to just come here and not compete...We needed to flip the switch. The switch happened when we started rebounding the basketball. Nate (Pryor) started forcing the issue and really going downhill...I think it caught them off guard a little bit. He took a big chunk of the game of that game and put it on his shoulders. He put us right on his back and led these guys to the win."
Seattle University-bound senior Pryor closed out his West Seattle High school career with 20 points, four assists and three steals.
"It's amazing," he stated. "Our goal was to get to state since my freshman year. Senior year we did it. We didn't go to the championship, but we got third place."
Abdullahi Mohamed contributed greatly to the Wildcat cause with 12 points, seven rebounds and five blocked shots.
After talking about the family bonding experience of West Seattle earlier in the week, coach Fazio had additional closing comments regarding Pryor.
"..."He's amazing," he said. "The kid's special. I wish I could say I made him that good, but the truth is he came to the table with a lot of that stuff in hand."
Le'Zjon Bonds and David Harris were double figures scorers for Lincoln with 15 and 11, respectively.
Players and their respective class years for the Hardwood Classic 3A 2017 third place West Seattle Wildcats (22-7) are Nate Pryor (12), Kendall Green (11), Tyler Lenzie (12), Jackson Golgart (11), Abdullahi Mohamed (10), Miles Hairston (12), Grant Vander Hijde (11), Cass Elliot (11), Kyle Masunaga (12), Yusuf Mohamed (12), Anthony Giomi (11), Simon Harris (11) and Mathias Fink (12)
Ably assisting coach Fazio are coaches Kasey Poirrier, Sean Austin, Colby Denton and Abby West.
Corey Sorenson is the athletic director.