Eastlake boys fend off Ballard rally, improve KingCo standing
January 17, 2014
By Neil Pierson
Even after making 7 of 8 attempts from the free-throw line to ice his team’s Jan. 7 victory, Eastlake High junior point guard Jordan Lester remained humble.
“A lot of the guys on our team can do that,” Lester said. “It was just my turn. I was just in the position to shoot the free throws, but it’s not really my role. It’s just kind of whoever gets the ball.”
Lester’s clutch shots helped Eastlake hold off a late Ballard rally, and the Wolves escaped with a 67-60 win over the visiting Beavers in a Class 4A KingCo Conference boys basketball game.
The Wolves stayed hot after winning three games at the Estancia/Tustin Coast Classic in southern California. They improved to 7-4 overall, 3-2 in KingCo play, and have positioned themselves for a good playoff seed.
Eastlake coach Brian Dailey said the team’s holiday-break trip served as a bonding exercise; the players saw the UCLA Bruins and Los Angeles Clippers in action.
“It was a ton of family growing,” Dailey said. “And you know, sometimes when that happens, you play better on the court.”
After a week off, the Wolves could’ve been rusty, but they knew they would have to play high-energy basketball against Ballard.
“The video we watched on Ballard, we knew they were going to play hard, especially on the defensive end,” Dailey said. “They really grind it out.”
“We knew Ballard was a scrappy team … and they play really well at shell defense,” Lester added. “They don’t really have a star or anything, but they just play really well as a team. We knew we were in for a battle, so we just wanted to fight and just give 100 percent and just execute.”
A fast start on its home court helped Eastlake shake off any doldrums. The Wolves jumped to an 8-1 lead in the opening minutes, extended it to 23-11 early in the second quarter and took a 31-25 edge to halftime.
Ballard (6-4, 3-3) began to attack the hoop more as the game progressed, and stayed within two or three possessions for most of the second half.
But Mason Pierzchalski, who shared the Eastlake team lead with 15 points, had a key score when he drove to the basket and completed a three-point play for a 56-47 lead with 5:09 left.
Ballard eventually cut its deficit to two when Nick Brown – who led all scorers with 17 points – drilled a 3-pointer from the right corner with 1:13 to play.
Lester committed an offensive foul on the ensuing inbounds play, giving Ballard a chance to tie, but Chase Deger missed a contested shot under the hoop and the Wolves regained possession.
That set the stage for Lester’s game-clinching free throws, two of them coming after he stole the ball near midcourt.
Pierzchalski, who hit two 3-pointers and scored 15 points, said Eastlake is starting to play the kind of quality basketball expected of a team with six seniors.
“We sort of carried momentum into this game, sort of found our identity as a team (in California), and now we’re just carrying it over.”
“They’ve become a veteran ball club,” Dailey said. “We’ve got a lot of seniors, and they’re battled-tested, and they didn’t get nervous. They kept their composure …
“That’s my favorite part about it. They can coach themselves on the court in that situation, and that says a lot about how far they’ve come.”
Davis Woerner, a 6-foot-6 senior, showed his versatility by knocking down three 3-pointers and scoring 14 points for Eastlake. Sophomore Ben Davidson came off the bench to add 10 points.
For the Beavers, Josh Campbell scored 14 points and Deger had 12.
The Wolves looked to keep rolling at Skyline Jan. 14, results of that game came after press time, and they’ll have a chance to make a big statement against highly-touted Garfield, a 7:30 p.m. start on Jan. 21 at Eastlake.
Improvements need to start at the defensive end, Dailey and his players said.
“We know we’re going to score points,” Pierzchalski said. “We’ve just got to get our stops.”