Highlanders defeat Patriots, 50-44

December 6, 2012

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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By Christina Corrales-Toy
Anthony Phillips, Hazen High School junior center, goes to the basket as Liberty defends during their Dec. 1 basketball game. Hazen defeated Liberty, 50-44.

After the final buzzer rang in the boys basketball matchup pitting Renton rivals Hazen and Liberty high schools against each other, the court was filled with a sea of celebrating students — Hazen students, that is.

Hazen’s sizable student section, all clad in white, stormed the court at Hazen High School after the Highlanders knocked off Liberty, 50-44, Dec. 1.

“I know there’s a certain rivalry with Liberty and Hazen,” Hazen coach Ryan Thompson said. “I don’t think the two schools are too fond of each other, so it’s a big win for us. They got us last year and we certainly wanted to get some revenge this year.”

Hazen got off to a quick start, outscoring the Patriots, 14-8, after the first quarter. The deficit widened before halftime, with the Highlanders leading Liberty, 28-20.

But the Patriots, following the guidance of new coach Omar Parker, refused to go down easily, putting together an inspired second half in which Liberty actually outscored Hazen 24-22.

With just less than two minutes to go in the fourth quarter, Liberty tied the game at 44. But the Patriots were never quite able to capture the lead and in the waning seconds of the game, the Highlanders pulled away.

“It was really a sign of toughness for us to come out and see how hard we would play tonight,” Thompson said of Hazen’s performance. “We didn’t drop our intensity at all, so that was the biggest thing that I was proud of our guys for.”

Senior captain Brody Graybeal led the Highlanders in scoring with 15 points. Matthew Campbell led the Patriots with 15 points as well.

Thompson called the win a complete team effort, but did single out the play of junior center Anthony Phillips.

“I thought Anthony Phillips, who is battling an ankle injury and just played through it, was really big for us inside,” he said. “I think he had nine rebounds and really was big inside and had some big baskets late.”

Parker said he was pleased with his team’s determination, especially in the second half, despite the loss.

“I thought our guys just played super hard,” he said. “I loved how connected we were emotionally. We really seemed to be playing for each other.”

Parker has a very experienced team to work with this year, with nine of his team’s 14 players being seniors.

“The difference between a sophomore and junior in high school and a senior is a pretty big leap and this group of seniors has shown great leadership,” he said.

Look for seniors Robbie Thomas, Timothy Phan, Tynan Gilmore, Dalton O’Brien and Matthew Campbell to play key leadership roles for this year’s team, Parker said.

While Liberty has experience, Hazen is just the opposite, with only three seniors on its varsity squad.

“We’re very young and a little green, but the good thing about that is we’ve got a long ways to go,” Thompson said. “I think we can really get to somewhere special by the end of the year if we keep working and stay together.”

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