With one game remaining in the regular season, the Eagles sit in the drivers seat for home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs — they’ll just need a little boost to stay buckled in.
The Cedar Park Christian boys basketball pulled away for a conference win over South Whidbey, 55-46, on Friday evening in Bothell, moving a half-game above the Falcons for the second seed out of the Cascade Conference. The second seed would be good for a home playoff game in the first round of the Class 1A District tournament.
The Eagles (5-6 Cascade, 10-9) need to beat Granite Falls on Feb. 3, and hope South Whidbey drops one of the final two games to avoid pure-chance a tiebreaker. Beating the Falcons (4-6, 7-11) on Friday was the first step.
“We want to host a playoff game here, and if we would have lost this we go on the road to tough teams like Mount Baker or Lynden Christian, which are good programs,” said Cedar Park junior George Reidy, who led the Eagles with 20 points. “We wanted to get this win and bring it back home. We have our home-court advantage. Great student atmosphere. It gives us an advantage, and we were pretty fired up.”
Reidy scored 10 in each half, including seven points during a third quarter stretch which saw the Eagles turn a halftime tie into a five-point edge after three quarters. It was an unusual setting for Cedar Park, which was celebrating Coaches vs. Cancer and honoring former girls’ coach Alan Dickson, who lost a battle with cancer in December 2016.
“I think the challenge for us tonight was just managing our emotions,” Cedar Park coach Adam Lynch said. “They definitely did in the second half.”
The Eagles worked to contain South Whidbey’s Lewis Pope, who had 14 in the first half and hit five shots from beyond the arc. Despite Pope’s hot start, though, the junior guard finished with 20 points, tying Reidy for game-high honors.
Lynch credited the defensive successes to the efforts of Zach Fisk, who finished with only five points, but helped to slow Pope.
“I think they gave him a different look and more attention in the second half, and he has to log so many minutes,” South Whidbey coach Michael Washington said. “If you have to play 32 straight minutes, bodies get tired. They’re constantly banging on you, you’re coming off screens, hounding the basketball and trying to score for your team, so he has to do a lot. It starts taking its toll in the second half.”
Shots began to rattle off the rim for South Widbey down the stretch, but circus shots continued to fall for the Eagles.
Senior Drew McLaurin, who finished with 11 points, hit a wild baseline fadeaway to give Cedar Park a seven-point edge late in the fourth quarter. The shot forced South Whidbey to foul and stop the clock, but Cedar Park hit five of six free-throw attempts in the final two minutes to seal the win.
“We need that,” Lynch said. “That’s how you advance and move on. We talk to our guys all the time about trying not to beat ourselves and be the team that makes the least amount of mistakes. We’re trying to be solid every possession, if we can.”
Should Cedar Park win the second seed, the Eagles would play the third Class 1A seed out of the Northwest Conference — Nooksack Valley — on Feb. 6 in Bothell. South Whidbey would then play the No. 2 Class 1A seed, Mount Baker, on Feb. in Deming, Wash.
The Falcons will likely need to beat Kings (10-0, 15-3) to avoid a road playoff game.
“It’s not impossible,” Washington said. “Everybody will lose a game eventually, right? So it’s not impossible. I’m still holding my hat and saying, ‘Hey, you can do this.’ You’ve got to go out there and compete and see what happens.”
Andrei Leonardi also finished with 11 points for Cedar Park Christian. Jack Flynn had eight.
Maxfield Friedman scored 10 points and Kellen Boyd had nine in the loss for South Whidbey.