The shots just kept falling for Issaquah junior Danny Howe, who scored a career-high 34 points to lead the Eagles to a 71-66 road victory over the Newport Knights on Jan. 3.
Howe got the Eagles off to a great start, scoring 15 points in the opening quarter, including hitting three from beyond the arc to give them a 24-17 lead after the first 12-minutes. Issaquah head coach Brad Valentine said once Howe made a couple shots early in the contest, he knew the 6-foot-9 forward was in for a big game.
“When he’s confident, he’s one of the better kids in the league,” Valentine said. “It was like he was throwing it into the ocean at the end, he was making everything. It’s really nice to see, because he’s a hard worker and he really cares. It’s good to see him have success because he’s a genuinely good kid.”
Valentine said he has been lucky to coach a handful of tall forwards who can shoot the ball over the last two years. Along with Howe, Issaquah has 6-5 junior Charlie Dietiker and 6-4 Asa Taylor, who graduated last season.
After Howe led the Eagles to a seven-point lead after the first 12 minutes, the Knights came back in the second quarter, outscoring the Eagles 17-5 to take a 34-29 lead into halftime. Newport’s junior guard Ryan Thompson scored a team-high 28 points for the Knights.
“(Newport) went on a run,” Valentine said. “Thompson and (Cole) Haller are studs and they got going.”
In the third quarter, The Knights extended their lead to seven, but Howe hit a pair of 3-pointers to pull the Eagles back within one midway through the third.
The Eagles pulled ahead late in the quarter to take a 52-50 lead into the fourth quarter. Issaquah carried its momentum into the fourth quarter, scoring the first eight points of the frame to take a 62-52 lead with four minutes left. The Knights would fight their way back into the game after forcing multiple Issaquah turnovers. Newport’s Thompson made a pair of free throws to pull within two, 66-64, with less than two minutes left. The Eagles would hit five out of their six free throws in the final 42 seconds to secure their 71-66 victory over the Knights.
After a slow start to the season, Valentine said his team has had to go through a lot of adversity.
“At the beginning of the year, the word they wanted to embody was ‘Grit’,” Valentine said. “That’s going through adversity and perseverance. That last two minutes, I feel like I lost like 10 years of my life, the way we took care of the ball. But this group hasn’t wavered in their belief, that says a lot about them and their buy-in.”
The win gave the Eagles their first league victory of the season after dropping their first three league contests.
“There is a ton of parity, outside of Mount Si at the top. On any given night, anyone can beat anyone,” Valentine said. “With the league the way it is, every single night is a grind. Us grinding that one out is good for us to learn and build on.” The Eagles were back in action the next night, falling 65-51 to the Skyline Spartans on Jan. 4.