The East Jefferson Rivals boys basketball team’s quest for the postseason was interrupted by Life Christian Academy as the Eagles’ potent offense narrowly outscored the home team on …
The East Jefferson Rivals boys basketball team’s quest for the postseason was interrupted by Life Christian Academy as the Eagles’ potent offense narrowly outscored the home team on Senior Night.
The banners were out and the EJ seniors shined bright, but the Eagles prevailed in a tough Monday night matchup.
“Losses are tough, but the boys came out,” said Rivals Head Coach Emanuel Abbott.
“This is probably the best full game, or close to that, that we’ve played. A lot of kids stepped up and played well,” he added.
Rivals senior Michael Petta and junior Brody Moore led the home team in scoring as senior Lorenzo McCleese and junior Stuart Dow delivered on the other end with big blocks and lockdown defense, not to mention two big dunks from Dow and junior Keidan Guzman to supercharge the Rivals’ fans.
It didn’t take long for either team to start hitting their shots after the opening tipoff, as the Rivals and Eagles traded the lead throughout the first quarter.
Guzman picked up the ball from an Eagles turnover, cradling it and leaping up for a right-handed slam.
The big dunk was met with a loud, energetic roar from the Rivals’ faithful, but Guzman landed awkwardly and picked up an ankle injury that left him out of the rest of the matchup following the dunk.
The Eagles managed a slim 14-12 lead going into the second period.
Halfway through the second, EJ’s home fans were treated to another big dunk, this time delivered by Dow. After Moore’s layup attempt bounced off the rim midway through the period, Dow soared through the air to deliver a putback slam.
The raucous applause quickly turned to boos after Dow received a technical foul for hanging on the rim.
The Eagles took advantage of the Rivals’ referee-induced frustration, leading 36-32 at half.
Both squads continued to add to the scoreline with Life Christian still on top, 51-43 at the end of the third period.
With the game on the line, the Rivals heated up and cut down the Eagles’ eight-point lead.
Moore and Petta led the way in scoring as the score teetered to 49-54, then tottered 52-54, then tipped 54-56.
It seemed any time the Rivals surged ahead with a three-pointer or layup, the Eagles returned with a basket of their own to maintain the edge.
The Eagles eventually went on to snatch the 69-61 victory.
“Unfortunately we couldn’t get the win for our seniors. But hey, it’s coming around, I think,” Abbott said of the loss.
Petta, Guzman, Moore, and the rest were outstanding on the night, Abbott added.
Petta led EJ in scoring with 18 points, followed by Moore (13 points), along with Dow and McCleese (11 points each).
There was a lot to be proud of as a coach, but Abbott reiterated the team’s need to control the boards and own the paint.
“With Lorenzo [McCleese], Keidan [Guzman], and Stuart [Dow], we should be owning every rebound, but we’re not there yet. We’ll get there,” Abbott said.
With the regular season almost wrapped up, the Rivals control the coveted and final Nisqually League playoff seed at No. 6 after a crucial win against Bellevue Christian School on Tuesday, Jan. 31.
It’s not signed and sealed yet for EJ, as they were scheduled to take on Annie Wright School Tuesday, then face Klahowya Secondary School this Thursday.
“We’re still fighting in that hunt for the playoffs and these guys, especially these seniors, are ready to go,” Abbott said.
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