Boys basketball: Wildcats gut out overtime win

Picking up its game just in the nick of time, the Oak Harbor boys basketball team came from behind to defeat visiting Lynnwood 56-50 in overtime Friday, Jan. 14.

The Wildcats knew heading into the game it was a contest they should win. “Should win” isn’t often used to describe a team coming in with a 2-11 record. But Oak Harbor was coming off four strong performances, all tough losses to some of the league’s best teams, and playing at home; and Lynnwood had a similar record (2-12), had lost nine in a row and hadn’t won since beating the Wildcats a month ago. The Royals were also playing without the league’s top scorer, Anthony Edwards, who lit up the ‘Cats for 29 points the first time around.

Not only was it a “should win” for Oak Harbor, but it was a “must win” if the Wildcats wanted to keep their playoff hopes alive. Oak Harbor picked a poor time to play poorly, but it elevated its game a notch late in the contest while Lynnwood folded.

Oak Harbor coach Mike Washington Sr. said, “The kids gutted it out. They found a way to score. They gave me their all.”

That they did.

The Wildcats (2-6, 3-11) play two games next week that will determine if they can stay in the playoff hunt. The top six teams in Wesco 3A move on to district and Oak Harbor is currently tied for sixth with Everett (2-6, 4-10). The two team meet Thursday, Jan. 20, in Oak Harbor at 7:30 p.m. Before that, however, Oak Harbor travels to fifth-place Shorewood (3-5, 6-8) Tuesday, Jan. 18.

As has been the pattern all season, the Wildcats did not shoot well. But a strong offense rebounding performance and a ball-hawking defense overcame the sluggish shooting.

Oak Harbor snared 19 offense boards to Lynnwood’s eight and forced 21 Royal turnovers while committing just 14. That allowed the ‘Cats to launch 15 more shots from the field than Lynnwood and squeak out the win.

For the first three quarters Oak Harbor had trouble penetrating the Lynnwood zone and settled for three-point shots. The Wildcats made just three of 15 from long range in the first half and only one of nine in the second.

In the fourth quarter Oak Harbor became more aggressive at both ends of the floor. Its offense began attacking the rim, and its trapping defense caused the Royals to wilt under the pressure and created several fast-break buckets.

The game was close throughout with Lynnwood holding a slight lead most of the night. The Royals led 15-12 after the first quarter, the teams were tied at 22 at half and Lynnwood was up 32-28 after three.

The Royals took their biggest lead, 30-23, with 2:46 left in the third quarter and were up six, 38-32, with 5:06 left in the game.

Mike Washington Jr. scored twice, once off his own steal and another from a steal and assist from teammate Stevie Bratt, around a Royal basket.

With score 40-36 with 1:37 left, Jay Stout drained a three. Bratt took a charge on Lynnwood’s possession, but Washington Jr. missed a free throw that would have tied it.

Another Royal turnover gave Oak Harbor the ball and Trace Paul scored off an assist from Denzel Massey on an inbounds play. That gave Oak Harbor its first lead since Stout hit the game’s first basket. Paul was fouled on the play but missed the free throw, and Oak Harbor led 41-40.

The Royal’s Montique Thomas completed a three-point play with 16.7 seconds left to give his team a 43-41 lead.

Washington Jr. fought his way to the rim to knot the score at 43 with 10 seconds left. A Lynnwood turnover with four seconds left gave Oak Harbor a chance to win it in regulation. A Washington Jr. shot rimmed out, but a teammate rebounded and scored at the buzzer.

However, the officials, after a short meeting, waved off the bucket and sent the game to overtime.

While the partisan Wildcat crowd heartily disagreed with the ruling, coach Washington said, “I thought the shot was late.”

In the extra period Oak Harbor cleaned up its shooting woes by sinking both of its field-goal tries and nine of 12 free throws.

Oak Harbor held a 52-48 lead with 39.6 seconds left. Lynnwood missed the front end of a one-and-one but rebounded the miss. An uncontested put back was also off the mark, and the Royals squandered a great scoring opportunity.

Paul sank two free throws with 35.6 seconds left. After a Lynnwood basket, Stout hit two more foul shots to finish the scoring.

Washington Jr. topped Oak Harbor with 27 points and a team-high three steals. Stout over came a recent scoring slump to tack on 17 points; he hit four three-pointers. Paul had a season-high nine points and grabbed five offensive boards. Bratt had two points, 11 rebounds and three assists. Massey had the only other point; for the first time this season, Oak Harbor had zero bench points.

Ryan Haney led Lynnwood with 17 points.

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