With his squad behind by a point at halftime of their District 1 3A Boys Basketball Tournament loser-out game Wednesday, Meadowdale Mavericks’ junior forward Cole Nelson took some time by himself to consider his role on a team that was playing without injured top scorer Colton Walsh.
“With our leading scorer out hurt right now, I kind of told myself in the locker room that I need to step up and start playing at a high varsity level, create shots for my teammates and create shots for myself,” Nelson said.
That time of self-reflection paid off as Nelson scored 22 of his game-high 24 points after the halftime break, leading the Mavericks to a 69-55 overtime victory over the Squalicum Storm.
The win extends the Meadowdale season at least one more game to Friday, Feb. 21, when they take on the Stanwood Spartans in another district tourney loser-out contest.
Nelson sank four 3-pointers, grabbed eight rebounds and had two assists in his big performance Wednesday. The junior also went 8-for-8 from the foul line in overtime to help the Mavericks erase any hope of a late-game Storm surge.
The four minutes of overtime was the only time that either team looked dominant in a game that featured 11 lead changes and four ties. Meadowdale scored on all but one of its overtime possessions, including converting 11 of 12 free throw attempts. At the other end of the court, Squalicum collapsed offensively, going 1-for-8 from the field, committing one turnover and getting no offensive rebounds.
The Mavericks did show some superiority late in the third quarter with an 11-2 run to take a 37-28 lead, but Squalicum fought back to tie the game at 44-44 near the midpoint of the fourth quarter.
Then with the game tied at 50-50, the Storm had three shots at winning the game in the final seconds of regulation. But misses on a 3-point attempt by Devante Powell and two put-backs by Dedrick Mitchell sent the contest into extra time.
Meadowdale Coach Roger O’Neill recognized that the contest almost slipped away from his Mavs in the fourth quarter as fatigue was starting to show among his players.
“I called a couple timeouts there in the fourth (quarter) because I trust us to go make plays, but we certainly looked like our defensive energy was getting down,” O’Neill explained. “We’re so good defensively usually, so that’s a pretty telltale sign that we were on our second wind a little bit.”
“There were a couple moments there where we could have folded and they could have stolen that one from us,” he continued. “But our guys never gave up; we made some really clutch shots.”
Playing without Walsh, who suffered a right knee injury on Feb. 15, the Mavs had to revamp their entire offensive game plan for Wednesday. The new look offense was hit-and-miss in creating clear shot attempts, especially in the first half.
“We prepared a lot; we worked really hard in practice on our half-court offense, Nelson said, “kind of filling spots and seeing where people fit best in the offense where he used to play. We figured it out and got it done.”
In addition to Nelson’s 24 points, Leonardo Baquian scored 17 points in the game, including five 3-pointers, for the Mavs. Hunter Moen added 13 points while Mason Vaughn contributed 11 points and was the game’s leading rebounding with 14 boards.
“He’s such a hustler; he works his butt off in practice everyday and in every game,” Nelson said of Vaughn.
Clayton Bell led the Storm in scoring with 17 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, but had none in the critical overtime period.
Meadowdale, the No. 5 seed in the District 1 tournament, must now get past No. 2 seed Stanwood on Friday to play Saturday for a state tourney regional round berth. And after Wednesday’s night battle that saw extended minutes for many of the Mavs — Nelson played almost 31 minutes, Vaughn all but 31 seconds and Moen all 36 minutes in the game — the question arose if the team will be ready to compete Friday.
“We’ll be fully gassed up; we’ll be ready,” Nelson promised.
O’Neill wasn’t quite ready to think about Friday’s matchup against Stanwood yet, choosing instead to reflect on his team’s effort on Wednesday.
“I’m really proud of the guys tonight,” O’Neil said. “This time of year teams get to decide how long their season goes, and I thought both teams tonight showed that they really wanted to keep playing. And fortunately for us, we came out on top.”
You can view the entire District 1 3A Boys Basketball Tournament bracket here.
Prep Boys Basketball: Squalicum at Meadowdale, Feb. 19 (District 1 3A Boys Basketball Tournament loser-out game)
Squalicum 8 10 12 20 5 — 55
Meadowdale 8 9 20 13 19 — 69
Meadowdale individual scoring: Cole Nelson 24, Leonardo Baquian 17, Hunter Moen 13, Mason Vaughn 11, Justin Jackson 4, Will McKinley, Beau Hopkins, Zach White
Squalicum individual scoring: Clayton Bell 17, Devante Powell 10, Lincoln Hofer 9, Djouvensky Schlenbaker 8, Leland Zender 5, Reed Richardson, Elliott Aslan
Records: Meadowdale 12-10 overall; Squalicum 11-12 overall
Meadowdale next game: versus Stanwood; Friday, Feb. 21; 7:45 p.m. at Jackson High School (District 1 3A Boys Basketball Tournament loser-out game)
— By Doug Petrowski