Boys basketball: Wildcats' season ends in 40-38 loss

In spite of a gritty performance, the Oak Harbor High School boys basketball team fell 40-38 at Mountlake Terrace Wednesday, Feb. 16, and was eliminated from the district tournament.

The loss in the double-elimination tournament ended the Wildcats' first venture into the playoffs since 1998, but the tournament did produce Oak Harbor's first post-season win since 1996.

Mountlake Terrace now faces Meadowdale in a winner-to-state, loser-out game Saturday in the battle for third and fourth in the district tournament. Glacier Peak and Mount Vernon also play Saturday in the tournament title game; both clubs will move on to state.

Oak Harbor surprised many by getting within one game of playing for a state berth. On paper, the game with Terrace shouldn't have been close. The Hawks (12-11) finished second during the Wesco 3A regular season to Oak Harbor's sixth. Also, the 7-16 Wildcats had to face Mountlake Terrace on the Hawks' home court in front of a boisterous crowd.

The Wildcats, however, put together a valiant comeback and almost pulled off the big upset.

Both teams played outstanding defense.

The Hawks did an excellent job slowing Oak Harbor's top three scorers, Mike Washington Jr., Jay Stout and Denzel Massey. Terrace swarmed Washington Jr. when he touched the ball; extended to make sure Stout, Oak Harbor's best long-range threat, didn't get open looks; and halted Massey's slashes to the hoop.

For the game, the Wildcats shot just 27 percent (13-for-48) and hit only two of 17 three-point shots (11.8 percent).

Oak Harbor's defense wasn't shabby, limiting the Hawks to 36.4 percent from the field (16-for-44); Terrace made four of 12 from beyond the arc.

The Terrace man-to-man defense was particularly sticky and

stingy early. Oak Harbor hit just two hoops, both by Washington Jr., in the first quarter and trailed 10-5.

The Hawks started the second period on a 9-2 run, but the resilient 'Cats bounced back.

Down 19-7 with 5:16 left in the half, Oak Harbor nearly doubled its offense output in three minutes when it trimmed the lead to 19-13 on two buckets by Massey and another by Washington Jr.

Mountlake Terrace got back on track and led 24-15 at intermission.

Washington Jr. scored the first three points of the second half, but the Hawks went on an 8-0 run and Oak Harbor looked finished when Terrace led 32-19 with 3:20 left in the third quarter.

A 13-point deficit in the third quarter is far from impossible to overcome, but looks quite daunting when you have scored only 19 points the entire night.

The comeback began at the defensive end as Oak Harbor produced stop after stop, and the Terrace defenders began to tire and foul.

A three-point play by Massey and a basket by Kevawn Brooks narrowed the margin to 32-24 at the end of the quarter.

Stout hit a free throw to start the fourth and Washington Jr. added two more, and it was 32-27.

Marquis Armstead completed a three-point play for the Hawks and broke a nearly eight-minute MLT scoring drought.

Six points by Stout, four off free throws, narrowed the gap to 38-36 with 1:04 to play.

Mitch Haldane's put-back with 30 seconds left gave the Hawks a 40-36 lead.

Oak Harbor's season was then undone by back-to-back turnovers, and Massey's basket with one second left wasn't enough.

Coach Mike Washington Sr. said, "I am proud of our team. They kept fighting back, fighting back."

Washington Jr. had a game-high 15 points and eight rebounds. Massey tossed in nine points and grabbed five rebounds, Stout added seven points and five rebounds, Stevie Bratt scored five points and Brooks two.

Armstead and Zach Karels scored 12 each for Mountlake Terrace.

It was the final game for Oak Harbor seniors Massey, Stout, Bratt, Trace Paul, Connor Paul and David Tillotson.

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