Hazen dominates, Liberty struggles in January

February 4, 2011

By Tim Pfarr

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The Hazen Highlanders boys basketball team blazed through January, posting an 8-1 record and falling only to 4A Skyline High School.

Thanks to its strong record, the team was 14-3 and one win away from clinching the Seamount League championship as of Newcastle News’ deadline Jan. 31.

Dawit Kasa, Hazen junior center, puts up a shot Jan. 18 during the fourth quarter of the Highlanders' 70-62 victory against Lindbergh. By Greg Farrar

Hazen will play in a seeding match before heading to the playoffs.

The Liberty Patriots went 3-5 in January, and its 5-11 overall record as of the News’ deadline was enough to advance it to a postseason seeding match.

Hazen

Although Hazen has clinched the playoffs, it first needed to close the season with a road match against rival Renton High School at 7 p.m. Feb. 4. Head coach Gary Schaplow said the team was working one game at a time, staying focused on the tasks at hand and ensuring the team plays solid defense.

“Our focus is defense first,” he said. “When we play defense first, it makes us a pretty good ball club.”

Senior shooting guard and team captain R.J. Magar leads the team in points heading into the postseason. As of the News’ deadline, he had racked up a team-leading 242 points, averaging 14.2 points per game. About 41 percent of his points came from behind the arc.

“He’s been a scorer for a long time,” Schaplow said, adding that his true growth lately has come defensively. He’s become a more versatile player. I’m really, really pleased with his defense. It has really picked up.”

Of course, Magar is not the only dominate force for the Highlanders. Junior center Dawit Kasa and senior power forward and center Brandt Graybeal have also been dangerous. Kasa recorded 191 points and an average of 12.7 points per game. He also shot 64 percent from the field.

Graybeal — another team captain — knocked down 180 points and averaged 10.6 points per game.

Senior point guard De’corius Sampson — the third team captain — was also instrumental in the team’s success, as he was responsible for a team-leading 88 assists.

When it came to defense and rebounding, Graybeal led the way. He was a beast crashing the boards, with 196 total rebounds, and he managed to get his hands on the ball often, blocking 13 shots and recording 25 steals.

Sampson took advantage of having quick hands, stripping opponents 39 times during the season.

In the postseason, Schaplow said Sampson, Graybeal, Kasa and senior shooting guard Michael Dampier will likely be leaders in the postseason.

Dampier has 161 points for the year and an average of 9.6 points per game.

Schaplow said winning a state title is the obvious goal and likely on his player’s minds, but taking things one game at a time will help the team stay on track.

Liberty

Although Liberty was below a .500 record in January, head coach Joe Fithian said he expected the competition among KingCo teams to be tough.

“We’0re just not quite at that level yet. Our defense is, not our offense,” he said. “Our problem is we’re not scoring enough.”

On defense and rebounding, sophomore point guard Tynan Gilmore, senior post and team captain Kylan Marlow and junior post Ben Wessel were powerful. Wessel led the team with 64 rebounds, followed by Marlow with 44. Gilmore was fast to snatch the ball from opponents, nabbing 50 steals.

“He’ll pick your pocket if you’re not careful,” Fithian said. “If you bobble it at all, he’s got it.”

Offensively, the team leaned on senior guard Chandler Jenkins and Gilmore. As of the News’ deadline, Jenkins had scored 198 points and averaged 14.1 points per game. Gilmore scored 174 points and averaged 11.2 points per game. He also led the team with 50 assists.

Marlow also chipped in often, as he scored 124 points of his own. However, Fithian said Marlow brings more to the offense than what shows in the stat book.

“The key to our offense is Kylan Marlow,” he said. “He’s the one who sets up inside and draws a lot of double teams.”

Fithian said he was also impressed with Gilmore, who is playing with poise few sophomores exhibit. He said Gilmore has learned to read defenses much better, and change plays on the fly when he needs to.

In coming years, he is likely to be a big threat for the Patriots.

In their final two games, Liberty faced off against Lake Washington High School and Mount Si High School Feb. 1 and 3, respectively. Both games were after the News’ deadline.

Although Liberty has hit a few bumps during the year, Fithian said it isn’t inconceivable that the team would be able to surprise a dominant program in the postseason.

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