It was the kind of game that would have made the late Dan Fitzgerald proud.
The Shadle Park Highlanders shrugged off some early nerves to clamp down defensively and pull away from the Kelso Hilanders 65-31 in the opening game of The Fitz – The Dan Fitzgerald Memorial boys basketball tournament Friday at Lewis and Clark High School.
Shadle junior point guard Kionte Brown was named the player of the game. He had a game-high 15 points to go with two rebounds, two steals and two assists.
The 3A Highlanders are picked to finish third in the Greater Spokane League, and they showed why. Stout defense, rebounding and a deep bench will make Shadle a tough team to beat when league starts Tuesday.
“We didn’t start out the way we wanted to,” Shadle Park coach Tim Gaebe said, alluding to his team’s six first-quarter turnovers. “I think we were a little nervous. Eventually our press created some turnovers and we got some easy buckets off that. That’s what really created the separation.”
Exactly. Tied at 12 early in the second period, Shadle ran off nine straight points and the blowout was ignited. Then Brown and Washington State University-bound Brett Boese hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the final 2 minutes as the Highlanders built a 32-15 lead going into halftime.
For the 6-foot-7 Boese, it was his first game since watching his junior year end in the fourth game because of a broken foot. He admitted that he was overly amped. It showed particularly in his shooting (4 of 16).
“I felt personally I played immaturely,” said Boese, who had 14 points, 11 rebounds and three steals. “I know I’ll bounce back and be fine. I didn’t play as poised as I should. Luckily, Kionte stepped up and played really well. And a lot of the other guys played good defense.”
Gaebe’s not concerned in the least.
“What Brett’s going to figure out is he doesn’t have to do everything,” Gaebe said.
Boese and Brown will have plenty of support.
“I love our depth,” Boese said. “We have a lot of young guys who can contribute.”
Brown has been installed as the floor leader.
“I’m excited about it,” Brown said. “I need to lead by example and communicate more.”
Brown said defense will be key when league play begins.
“Defense is something we’ve got a lot of potential in but we don’t utilize it as much as we could,” Brown said.
In later tourney games at LC, West Valley (Yakima) defeated Cheney 62-47, the host Tigers toppled Camas 52-39, and Mead played the late game against Richland.