Wildcat boys show poise, break losing streak with 58-44 win

Poise. It’s not a quality you expect to see from an athletic team on a nine-game losing streak.

But the characteristic jumped to the forefront as the Oak Harbor boys basketball team showed its mental mettle in a 58-44 win over visiting Marysville-Pilchuck Tuesday, Jan. 12.

The win snapped the nine-game skid for the Wildcats, who hadn’t won since a season-opening rout of Sedro-Woolley.

There were three keys to the Wildcat win over Marysville (3-5, 6-6).

One: defense. Oak Harbor held the Tomahawks to 27 percent (15-55) shooting from the field. The scrappy Wildcats forced M-P to often settle for long-range attempts as the Tomahawks launched 27 3-pointers (hitting just six).

Also, Marysville-Pilchuck failed to convert many of its second-chance put backs against a physical Oak Harbor presence inside.

Two: balanced scoring. All year the Wildcats have leaned on Mike Washington Jr. to carry the offensive load. In games where other teams have successfully shut him down, other ‘Cats failed to pick up the slack.

Not so against Marysville. Washington suffered through a rare poor shooting night, but six different Wildcats scored at least six points to ease the pain. As coach Mike Washington Sr. said, “We shared the sugar.” Rashaad Smith recorded a season-high 12 points. Washington finished with 10, Colby Anter nine, Stevie Bratt eight, Jay Stout seven, Ryan Fakkema six, Denzel Hardin three and Aaron Boesch three.

Stout added six assists and Smith seven rebounds. Bratt came off the bench to give the Wildcats a spark early in the game with scoring, rebounding (he finished with a team-high eight) and hustle.

Three: the aforementioned poise. As the early loses mounted, Oak Harbor’s confidence waned. However, in the past two games, although Oak Harbor lost, the Wildcats “played well” and with “confidence,” according to coach Washington.

At the end of the first quarter, Marysville-Pilchuck led 11-10. For the next 6:30, the Tomahawks failed to score as Oak Harbor zipped to a 23-11 lead. The ‘Cats stayed on top 27-18 at the break.

As the second half started, Oak Harbor continued to take advantage of the Tomahawks’ shooting woes and built a 20-point bulge, 42-22, with 2:35 left in the third quarter. The Wildcat scoring spurt was highlighted by assists on four-straight possession by Stout. The Wildcat guard’s sharp passes hit Smith for two buckets and then Bratt for two more to ignite the offense and the crowd.

Down by 20, Marysville had its one hot streak of the night. In the course of just under six minutes, the Tommies outscored Oak Harbor 20-4 and trailed by just four, 46-42, with 4:18 left.

At that point, one would expect the Wildcats to suffer from a “here-we-go-again” attitude and a confidence level lower than Tiger Woods’ Q rating. No so. The Wildcats did not panic and crumble under the weight of mistakes. They played through their cold-shooting streak and a several turnovers and took back control of the game.

The turning point was a highlight reel play by Smith with 3:48 to play in the game. The 6-4 senior soared for a one-handed rebound and put back bucket that inspired his teammates, woke up the crowd and stunned Marysville-Pilchuck.

After Marysville missed 3’s on its next two possessions, Hardin drilled a 3 with 1:40 left to secure the momentum Smith started and to build a 51-42 lead for the Wildcats.

The Tomahawks finished the game by missing its final seven shots, all 3’s. Just as important as the misses to Oak Harbor, the ‘Cats limited Marysville to just one shot on all but one of those possessions.

Oak Harbor (1-6, 2-9) hosts Monroe (2-5, 4-7) Thursday, Jan. 14, at 7:30 p.m.

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