Eastlake owns fourth quarter, beats Ballard in playoff opener

February 18, 2014

By Neil Pierson

With a tenuous four-point lead entering the fourth quarter, the Eastlake Wolves figured to have a fight on their hands to close out a playoff win over the Ballard Beavers.

Then the Wolves started to make critical plays. Davis Woerner buried a 3-pointer off a designed play. Mason Pierzchalski twisted through traffic, was fouled, and completed a 3-point play. Mick Vorhof stole the ball and fed Jordan Lester for a layup. Woerner and Jake Davidson drew the fourth and fifth fouls on a Ballard starter.

The plays added up to a dominating fourth quarter and a 62-46 victory for the host Wolves on Feb. 11 in the first round of the Class 4A KingCo Conference boys basketball tournament.

The fourth quarter started with one of Eastlake’s favorite plays, “Money,” in which Woerner starts in the middle of the court, fakes one way and goes to the opposite corner. He hit the shot that started a 21-9 surge down the stretch.

“From there, we called a timeout to keep things going, and it just took off,” said Eastlake senior guard Mick Vorhof. “All the seniors, playing their last game at home, just took off.”

Eastlake (11-10 overall) earned home-court advantage against Ballard (12-9) thanks to a win over Redmond in its regular-season finale. A raucous student section helped propel the Wolves to their first playoff triumph in head coach Brian Dailey’s four-year tenure.

“We wanted the students to come out,” assistant coach Blake Hawksworth said. “It was a cool thing to host it, so it was great for the community to have a win here, and just to see the total body of work kind of come together on a night like this was special for us.”

The Wolves seemed bolstered by the home crowd early in the game – they scored the game’s first 10 points and led 18-8 after the first quarter. The Beavers didn’t score their first points for nearly five minutes.

Eastlake beat Ballard, 67-60, in a Jan. 7 conference game, but the Wolves felt they had to play better interior defense in the rematch.

They did so, holding the Beavers’ top three scorers – Nick Brown, Chase Deger and Darius George – to 28 combined points, six below their season average.

George led the Beavers with 12 points, but fouled out with about four minutes left after Woerner drew an offensive foul, and Davidson collected an offensive rebound, forcing George to hack him.

“They’re a scrappy team,” Vorhof said. “We knew they were going to come all out, and we just thought we had to out-play them, out-scrap them, dive on the floor before they dive on the floor, and that’s what we did.”

Hawksworth said the Wolves focused on defense leading up to the game, and felt the players followed through on the game plan to emulate Ballard’s “gritty, grimy” tactics under the basket.

“We just wanted to make it tough for them, and they’re a hard team to do that against, because they execute their stuff really well,” Hawksworth said. “And they make you work just as hard on the offensive end. We were fortunate to get enough stops, and it’s a credit to the guys. They really played well.”

An 8-0 run got the Beavers back into the game late in the first half, and they eventually cut the Wolves’ lead to one point in the third quarter.

But Eastlake had too many offensive options for the visitors to handle. Vorhof, who led the way with 15 points, hit a clutch 3-pointer late in the third to keep his team ahead.

The Wolves’ starting five dominated, outscoring Ballard’s starters 56-39. Pierzchalski and Woerner had 11 points apiece, Lester scored 10 and Davidson added nine.

“Sometimes we can shoot the ball pretty well; sometimes we can’t,” Hawksworth noted. “Tonight we shot a little better than normal, and we got the ‘W.’”

Eastlake lost in the tournament semifinals Feb. 14 to Garfield, 74-64. That put the Wolves in a Feb. 18 loser-out game against Bothell, results came after press time.

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