Stanwood too much for Cats

Oak Harbor guard Austin Fulgham passes the ball on the break  against  Mount Vernon last Tuesday. Wildcats forward Chris Raimundi received Fulgham’s pass and converted a successful three-point play to put the Wildcats up 52-46 late in their victory over the Bulldogs. - Matt Moss
Oak Harbor guard Austin Fulgham passes the ball on the break against Mount Vernon last Tuesday. Wildcats forward Chris Raimundi received Fulgham’s pass and converted a successful three-point play to put the Wildcats up 52-46 late in their victory over the Bulldogs.
— image credit: Matt Moss

Coming into Tuesday’s meeting with the sixth-ranked Stanwood Spartans, the Oak Harbor boys basketball team knew they had their hands full. For the first 16 minutes it didn’t matter.

The Wildcats played the Spartans close in the opening half, but Stanwood pulled away in the second half and picked up an 84-56 victory over the Cats on Tuesday night.

Stanwood, which clinched the WesCo North Division title with the victory, was led by stars Marcus Steele, who had a game-high 23 points, and Ryan Appleby who added 14, including four three-pointers.

“Knowing that (Appleby) is a Division 1 prospect and Steele’s the league’s leading scorer, yeah it’s a little intimidating playing against them,” said Oak Harbor junior swingman Grant Bull.

Steele, a senior, has already signed on with Seattle University to play college hoops next year, while Appleby, a junior, is getting recruited by many West Coast Division 1 schools such as Gonzaga and Stanford. Besides the big two, the rest of the team isn’t half bad either.

In the first half , Oak Harbor stayed with the Spartans almost shot for shot. After Stanwood took an early first-quarter lead, post-player Jon Jansen kept the Cats in it by scoring six straight points. Down by three, Bull hit a shot from outside the three-point arc and tied it at 13-13.

“The guys didn't back down from them one bit,” said Cats head coach Bryan Schulle. “Jon Jansen went right at Steele in the first quarter and had some buckets against them.”

After Bull’s runner in the lane tied the game at 17-17 with just seconds remaining, the quick Appleby brought the ball down the court and nailed a three at the end of the quarter giving Stanwood a 20-17 lead.

The second quarter was more of the same. Stanwood retained their lead, but the Cats stayed right with them. Junior guard Austin Fulgham led Oak Harbor in the period with eight of his 12 points, including one occasion when he went right by Appleby and scored on a one-hander.

Fulgham brought the Cats to within four by draining two free throws with 4.5 seconds left in the half. At that point the Spartans’ Loren Brokaw got open and drilled a three-pointer at the buzzer to make the halftime score 38-31 in favor of Stanwood. Without the two buzzer-beating three’s Oak Harbor could have been down by just one after the first half.

The Cats kept up with Stanwood at the beginning of the third, with sophomore Chris Raimundi scoring two nice hoops from the baseline. After that the Spartans, behind Steele and Appleby, began to heat up. Before you could blink the Spartans were up 55-38 with less than three minutes remaining.

“The first half went well, but Stanwood is just one of those teams that you can't afford to have a bad quarter, or even half of a quarter against,” said Schulle. “They will make you pay for mistakes.”

After the game Bull felt that the Wildcats got away from playing as a team in the second half.

“In the first half we played better, more as a team,” he said. “In the second we let things go and stopped doing what got us there. They came out ready in the second half and I don’t think we did.

“It puts things in perspective, we know what we have to do to win in this league.”

Down 63-41 to begin the final eight minutes, almost any hopes of a Wildcat comeback were dashed when Steele threw down an alley-oop dunk to begin the fourth period. The Cats were outscored 21-15 in the final frame as Stanwood went on to pick up the 84-56 victory.

With the loss, the Wildcats wrapped up their season, matching their record from last year by going 4-16.

“It’s kind of a letdown,” said Bull after the game. “No one expected us to win this year, but deep down we thought we would do better than last year.”

Schulle looked at this, his first season as coach of the Wildcats, as a growing process. The core of the team returns led by Bull, Jansen, and Fulgham who will all be seniors. With the team having had a full year and a season to get accustomed to his style of play, Schulle is expecting improvement next winter.

“The season went well, overall,” he said. “The kids learned a great deal and I anticipate that we'll be in the hunt for the playoffs next season.”

Stanwood 84, Oak Harbor 56

At Oak Harbor H.S.

Stanwood – 20 18 25 21 – 84

Oak Harbor – 17 14 10 15 – 56

Stanwood: Jamison 2, Brokaw 5, Toshner 4, Born 2, Appleby 14, Ali 3, Bodfish 4, Steele 23, Whitney 7, Messerli 14, Smith 6. Oak Harbor: Fulgham 12, Cavitt 4, Jansen 14, Bull 10, Raimundi 6, Brown 10. 3-point goals: Appleby 4, Brokaw 1, Ali 1, Messerli 2, Bull 1, Brown 2. JV: Stanwood def. Oak Harbor. Records: Stanwood: 14-1 in league, 17-2 overall. Oak Harbor 3-13, 4-16.

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