The Mead Panthers built a 15-point lead and held off a late charge to top the Skyline Spartans 49-39 at the State 4A tournament Saturday.
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By Greg Lee
That’s how the Mead boys basketball team will remember the 2009-10 season.
The Mead Panthers watched most of a 15-point lead dissolve to four before they finished off the Skyline Spartans 49-39 to capture fifth Saturday at the State 4A tournament in the Tacoma Dome.
Junior forward Garrett Swanson hustled after a loose ball and scored a layup to give Mead (22-7) a 35-20 lead 30 seconds into the fourth quarter.
Mead committed three straight turnovers and all of a sudden the Spartans sensed there was hope.
“I thought we had it in the bag and then they picked up the intensity,” Mead senior point guard Brendon Myers said. “That’s when I knew we had to start picking up ours and not relax. The 15-point lead made us a little flat. We kind of looked at each other and said we can’t lose this, not our last game. We started talking to each other.”
Still, there were some tense moments until the end. Skyline (22-5) cut the lead to 43-39 with 52 seconds remaining. But Myers, who scored a game-high 15 points, made 5 of 6 free throws and senior wing Bo Tully knocked down the final two foul shots with 18 seconds to go and the Panthers had withstood Skyline’s frantic rally.
“We call that getting a little greasy there at the end,” Mead coach Glenn Williams said. “It got it a little slippery. As always this year the kids came through.
Mead had its struggles at the free-throw line. Usual leading scorer, senior post Aaron Dunn, made just 3 of 11 and the Panthers were 15 of 28 overall.
“I didn’t shoot well from the (free-throw line),” Dunn said. “It’s one of those games where it’s Saturday and the legs are gone.”
The missed foul shots won’t be a lasting memory. What will be remembered most is the fact Mead won its final game and captured the second highest trophy in school history.
Mead received significant contributions from a handful of players. Swanson came off the bench to score 14 points and get four steals, Dunn had a team-high six rebounds and Tully had five rebounds and two steals.
“(The season) had a lot of ups and downs,” Dunn said. “Early
we went to the
Defense was Mead’s key at state, particularly against Skyline.
“We played real good defense,” Dunn said. “We slowed them down in our (2-3) zone. They didn’t get inside touches, they were shooting a lot of 3s. To their credit they shot well at the end of the game.”
“I thought the last two games our defense was really strong,” Williams said. “For long stretches we limited (Skyline) to one shot and we’d come down and be efficient on offense.”
Williams thought his team had a little more fuel than Skyline.
“Our kids I felt just had a little more energy,” he said. “I think they were a tad bit hungrier and I think that’s what carried them.”
This season is surpassed in accomplishment by the state runner-up finish in 2003.
“I’ve coached some pretty good players, but this is one special group of kids,” Williams said. “They don’t cause a speck of trouble and are a joy to be around. There was never a day that I didn’t look forward to going to practice. They’re well-parented.”
Josh Smith of Kentwood, who led the Conquerors to a 67-58 win over Jackson in the state championship game, was named the most valuable player.
Other players named to the team were Ryan Nicholas (Gonzaga Prep), Aaron Dunn (Mead) Brett Kingma (Jackson), Isiah Umipig (Federal Way), Gary Winston (Walla Walla), Kale Schmidt (Stanwood), Cole Dickerson (Federal Way), Mikey Hope (Wilson) and Michael Russo (Eastlake).