The Eatonville Cruiser boys basketball team lost a close non-league match-up against The Northwest School on Jan. 16 before bouncing back Jan. 18 in a crucial Evergreen Conference game to defeat the Elma Eagles.
The week before, Eatonville ran into a sharpshooter in Hoquiam’s Michael Lorton-Watkins but overcame his 42-point performance to grab the win. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said about Miles Nelson of The Northwest School. Nelson scored a game-high 36 points, and the Cruiser comeback fell short as Northwest defeated Eatonville, 68-66, last Monday evening.
Eatonville fell behind early, and Northwest School would extend the lead in each of the next two quarters. Entering the final quarter, the Cruisers trailed by 14, at 57-43.
The Cruisers then mounted a comeback. They went on a 10-2 run to start the quarter and pulled within two points behind Shay Brannon’s 11 points; senior guard/forward Shane Taylor came off the bench to score eight points during the push.
With 9.2 seconds left on the clock and with the ball, Eatonville needed to run the full length of the court to tie it up or win it. Brannon got a good look at a 3-pointer from the top of the key, but it was off the mark. Taylor was there for the rebound, but his putback also missed as time expired.
Following the loss to The Northwest School, the Cruisers regrouped.
Missing Brannon due to an illness, the Cruisers headed to Elma for another Evergreen Conference match-up. Eatonville came into the game with an unblemished 3-0 record in league play and went up against a 2-1 Eagles team looking to force a tie for first.
With Brannon out sick, coach TJ Cotterill turned to Taylor to start. Taylor rose to the occasion. He finished the night with his first career double-double with 19 points and 10 rebounds. He hit three crucial 3-pointers late in the game and blocked five Eagle shots.
“Shane has had a tough go this season,” Cotterill said. “It’s been a roller coaster between his wrist injury, some nasty illnesses and an ankle injury. When he’s at full strength he’s such a spark for us. We can plug him in at any position, and he’s always ready to give you his best.”
Tied at 14 after the first quarter, Elma came out strong in the second quarter. The Eagles went on a 10-0 run and took a 12-point lead late in the quarter before the Cruisers trimmed the lead to nine at the half, trailing 36-27.
“Tonight, we needed rebounds, contested shots, and Shane added his trademark unwavering confidence and knocked down his shots,” Cotterill said. “What was great was he never forced anything. When you’re open, we tell guys to tell themselves, ‘Heck yes, I’m shooting.’ Shane did that tonight, and I’m sure we’ll see it again.”
Midway through the third, Eatonville closed the gap to four before Elma extended it back out to nine. The Cruisers battled back to trim it down to three points with the help of Griffin Clevenger’s nine in the period as the third quarter ended.
Walker Bruun nailed a crucial 3-pointer at the 4:45 mark to give the Cruisers their first lead of the game at 57-56. Bruun finished the game with 28 points.
With just under 4 minutes to play, Elma’s AJ Holmes scored to put Elma up 58-57; that was the last time the Eagles scored the rest of the game.
Eatonville tied the game on a Kyle Cox free throw on the next possession and began a 10-0 run, highlighted by two back-to-back 3-pointers by Taylor to close out the game and take a 68-58 victory.
The Cruisers’ tough non-league schedule to start the season has started to pay dividends in many of their wins in close games, Cotterill said.
“We’ve played a lot of close, tough games, and we talked earlier in the year that those could define us, for either good or bad,” Cotterill said. “We’ve chosen to respond with it defining us for good and getting tougher and closer as a team because of it. We’ve got a long way to go, but we’re understanding the play we have to come out with one day, one practice, one game at a time.”
The Cruisers headed to Montesano on Tuesday to finish off their two-game series with the Bulldogs (results were not available at press time). They come back home for a tough re-match with the second-place Tenino Beavers on Thursday at Rainier Connect Arena at Eatonville High School.
Eatonville will finish the week by heading to Cardinal country to take on longtime rival Orting in a non-league game Friday. Tip-off for both games is at 7 p.m.
NORTHWEST SCHOOL 68, EATONVILLE 66
Eatonville 13 15 15 23 — 66
Northwest 17 20 20 11 — 68
Eatonville: Shay Brannon 27, Walker Bruun 12, Hunter Klumpar 9, Kyle Cox 8, Shane Taylor 8, Griffin Clevenger 2.
Northwest School: Miles Nelson 36, Seth Horn 23, Ariya Sethi 4, Soren Traina 3, Mehkai Parmer 2.
EATONVILLE 68, ELMA 58
Eatonville 14 13 22 19 — 68
Elma 14 22 16 6 — 58
Eatonville: Walker Bruun 28, Shane Taylor 19, Griffin Clevenger 14, Kyle Cox 5, Michael Stogsdill 2
Elma: Gibson Cain 23, Traden Carter 12, AJ Holmes 10, Cason Seaberg 9, Carter Studer 4.