The Issaquah boys basketball team got within three points in the last 1:30 of the game, but the Skyline Spartans held on for a 70-61 victory on Dec. 13.
The Spartans started the game on a 14-3 run and never relinquished the lead to hand the Eagles their second straight league loss.
Issaquah senior Saxon Cullimore had a game-high 22 points, and junior Danny Howe added 17 points of his own. The Spartans had four players with 14 points: Cole Fontenelle, Kauner Przybylski, Ben Johnson and Zach Ulmer.
Trailing 58-47 with three minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Eagles went on a 10-2 run to cut the Spartans’ lead to three points, the closest the game had been since early in the first quarter. Issaquah head coach Brad Valentine said late in the fourth quarter they started to play more as a team and did a better job of moving the ball around and finding open shots.
The Spartans answered back, with Przybylski hitting a 3-pointer, just barely beating the shot-clock buzzer to put them ahead 63-57. The Spartans hit five of six free throws in the last 30 seconds to secure the win.
“To be 100 percent honest, Skyline was the better team tonight,” Valentine said. “They played us for 32 minutes and they deserved to win that one. (Skyline head coach) Gordon Kaplan does a heck of a job over there. The way they moved and executed and played as a team, they were fantastic tonight. Hats off to them for how they moved and shared the ball.”
The loss to the Spartans dropped the Eagles to 0-2 in league at press time, but Valentine said they have the weapons to succeed, they just have to do a better job at sharing the ball.
“We have a chance to be pretty good, we just have to start doing it now,” Valentine said. “The talk part is cheap, we have to get better every day and to continue to grit and grind to get where we need to be.”
The rivalry game against the Spartans drew a large crowd at Issaquah High School. Valentine, who is in his second year with the Eagles, said the rivalry creates a fun atmosphere.
“It’s good to get the community out and it’s good to go against a team and a coach you respect,” Valentine said. “It has a different feel. There’s way more bodies in the gym, you can feel the heat in the gym a little bit.”
The Eagles (1-4 overall at press time) picked up their first win of the season, a 52-48 win over the Enumclaw Hornets on Dec. 14. Issaquah led 22-9 at halftime before Enumclaw fought its way back into the game. The Hornets cut the Eagles’ lead to 50-48 late in the fourth quarter, but senior forward Rowan Dillon made a key basket to secure the win.