Heading into their opening round of the District 1 3A boys basketball tournament, the Edmonds-Woodway Warriors were aiming to avenge their double-digit loss a month prior to the cross-town rival Meadowdale Mavericks They did just that in a 69-45 tournament win at home Friday night that wasn’t just about achieving redemption, but also about making a post-season statement.
“It means a lot,” Warriors head coach Robert Brown said. “It means we get to advance, and that’s a big thing about it. It’s huge for the guys, and I just enjoyed the way they played. The way they played at the beginning of the game. And they got out, and they got after it. And it just set a tone for the rest of the game.”
The victory continued a mid-season stride for the Warriors, who won 10 of their final 12 games. For the Mavericks, the defeat was punctuated by losing senior leader Colton Walsh to a knee injury early in the game.
Led by Warrior junior Nuer Bol’s six points and senior guard Chinedu Acholunu’s four steals, the Warriors were on a mission early to expose the Mavericks’ zone defense. Following an 11-0 Edmonds-Woodway run, the Mavericks were down by double digits at the three-minute mark in the first quarter. Acholunu, the Warriors’ point guard who finished with 12 points on the night, was on a defensive tear throughout the course of the game, and had four of his six total steals in the first quarter alone.
“My job is to keep my defense up and don’t let down,” Acholunu said. “Keep going. Just keep going. And I take pride in that. Great pride in playing defense with my feet, and try to help my team win with some steals.”
Walsh’s injury came late in the first quarter while attempting to block a layup attempt from Acholunu. He fell after inadvertent contact to his right knee and headed to the locker room. Walsh, who had scored a career-high 30 points during the Mavs’ win over the Warriors Jan. 25, would never return to the game after that.
“From the start tonight, we just got a little bit sped up and so our decision-making wasn’t great, but we were settling in,” Mavericks head coach Roger O’Neill said. “And I had full confidence that we were going to get back in there, and then, obviously Colton [Walsh] goes down and anytime you lose a first-team, all-league guy like him, it’s going to be tough.
“We’ve been riding him,” O’Neill continued. “And the last couple of weeks, he’s been playing so well, so to our guys’ credit, they battled, they kept fighting, but, you know, he’s such a big part to what we do that it was tough to withstand.”
The Mavericks were able to come within eight points by the end of the first, trailing 22-14. But early in the second quarter, following a 3-pointer from Meadowdale’s Cole Nelson, the Warriors answered with a 15-0 run – paced by Acholunu’s nine points and highlighted by Nuer Bol’s steal and fastbreak dunk, which drew cheers from Warrior fans.
The Warriors entered halftime with a comfortable 17-point lead, 39-22.
Both teams continued physical play in the third quarter, with the Mavericks entering double-bonus territory with two minutes to go in the third quarter.
The Warriors, who had eight fouls of their own at that point, capitalized from the free throw line with Mutdung Bol, who was 9-for-9 from the charity stripe and had 13 points on the night.
Bol showed just as much execution on the defensive end. His trio of steals, adding to his pair of blocks, were another significant reason the Mavericks were held to just one 3-pointer in the second half.
“That’s just Woodway basketball. That’s our defense,” Mutdung Bol said. “That’s what we’re known for. High-tempo, high-intensity defense from the start.“
By the three-minute mark in the fourth, the Warriors were leading by 20, and the substitutions were made for both sides.
Now, Edmonds-Woodway will gear up for the 3A District 1 semifinal matchup against the Marysville-Pilchuck Tomahawks, who won in the first round over the Squalicum Storm 63-46. The game will be Feb. 19 at 7:45 p.m. at Jackson High School.
Meanwhile, the Mavericks will enter the consolation bracket, squaring off against the Storm Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. for a loser-out game at Meadowdale High School.
Prep Boys Basketball: Meadowdale at Edmonds-Woodway, Feb. 15
Meadowdale 14 8 13 10 — 45
Edmonds-Woodway 22 17 11 19 — 69
Edmonds-Woodway individual scoring: Nuer Bol 15, Mutdung Bol 13, Chinedu Acholunu 12, Tollak Crawford 8, Steele Swinton 7, Nikko McNeal 5, Jacob Gabler 5, Bryan Bunyatipanon 2
Meadowdale individual scoring: Hunter Moen 15, Mason Vaugh 10, Leonardo Baquian 7, Colton Walsh 5, Cole Nelson 5, Justin Jackson 2, Louis Gallagher 1
Records: Edmonds-Woodway: 11-4 league, 15-6 overall; Meadowdale 9-6, 11-10
Edmonds-Woodway next game: vs. Marysville Pilchuck; Monday, Feb. 19; 7:45 p.m. at Jackson High School
Meadowdale next game: at Squalicum; Wednesday, Feb. 19; 7 p.m. at Meadowdale High School
— By David Gillespie