Gonzaga Prep has been leaning on its senior post all season long. Why wouldn’t that continue in an elimination game at state?
Jayden Stevens, who watched from the bench as a freshman as Anton Watson won his second-consecutive state title at the Tacoma Dome in 2019, scored 21 points with eight rebounds and the Bullpups beat Federal Way 63-49 in a State 4A first-round loser-out on Wednesday.
Eighth-seeded Gonzaga Prep (15-8) advances to face second-seeded Curtis on Thursday at 9 p.m. in a quarterfinal.
“Whenever we get the ball in his hands, we have absolute trust that he’s gonna make the right play and make guys around him better,” Gonzaga Prep coach Matty McIntyre said of Stevens. “I will just keep leaning on him.”
“Hey, it’s a win. I’m happy right now,” Stevens said. “Especially when you come into the Dome with a couple of young guys that haven’t been here and you get your first one out of the way – especially against a team like Federal Way that likes to put pressure on us. I’m happy with how that turned out.”
Sophomore Henry Sandberg added 15 points and Carter Collins had 14 for the Pups.
Stevens had some words of wisdom for some his younger teammates.
“This year on this team, we all kind of look up to each other and keep each other accountable,” he said. “I mean, I just kind of stepped up and have been that leader and they’ve kind of looked to me to what it was like to play (at the Dome).”
Federal Way (15-6) was led by Vaughn Weems with 21 points.
Stevens scored eight points in the first quarter as the Pups opened a 16-9 lead. Federal Way turned to a press in the second quarter, but it ended up giving G-Prep some open looks instead. Collins buried a wide-open corner 3 and the Bullpups lead went to double digits.
Stevens came up with a steal at midcourt and finished with two hands to make it 32-14 with 2 1/2 minutes left in the half.
“It was certainly game runs,” McIntyre said. “I was most worried about the first quarter with the pressure and how a new group of guys was going respond to the Dome. I thought that was terrific. We came out ready to go, organized and under control.”
But Gonzaga Prep went cold the rest of the half, Federal Way popped a couple of 3s and the Pups led 32-22 at intermission.
Weems scored the first basket of the second half, then G-Prep turned it over twice leading to two more baskets for Weems to cut the lead to four.
“We knew that we weren’t going to be able to be in our offensive sets as much as we probably would have liked,” McIntyre said. “It’s a game of chaos versus Federal Way, and they make it that way.”
Stevens stemmed the tide with a power move, Sandberg splashed a 3 and the lead went back to double digits. Gonzaga Prep led 49-40 after three.
“We just knew they were gonna come press us,” Stevens said. “So we just had our wits about us. Once I got a couple buckets, we just took that time out, calmed ourselves down.”
The Pups opened the fourth with a 6-0 run to push the lead to 15.
“We had that let down the last 3 minutes before halftime, let them back into the game,” McIntyre said. “But I’m proud of the kids keeping their composure and then we were able to regain momentum there in the second half.”
The Eagles went back to the press, but Collins got loose for a two-handed slam and the lead stayed at 12. Federal Way emptied its bench with 1:21 left in the game.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the sports newsletter
Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.