Back-to-Back Basketball

Bella Munson, Sports Editor

The SCC gymnasium, usually quiet, was buzzing with activity as it filled with friends, family and fans alike. Upon walking in the door you were greeted by smiling faces and school spirit. The first table you came upon sold school merch, while the second had extensive concessions options. Lots of people, including school mascot Dolphie, were opting for the fresh popcorn whose scent filled the entrance. Head to the last table at the door and you meet an enthusiastic group of students, handing out pre-made signs, raffle tickets and inflatable noise sticks for fans.

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This unusual business came about because, prepared to host a basketball doubleheader featuring both their women’s and men’s teams. Shoreline had marketed it around campus as a “Pack the Stands” event. On the evening of Wednesday February 8, the Edmonds Tritons were on campus to take on the Shoreline Dolphins.

The women’s team kicked off the night at 5:30 p.m. with a dominant victory. After an opening 6-0 run by Edmonds, Shoreline stormed back for a wire-to-wire win. They maintained a ten-point lead, or greater, for most of the game, but Edmonds never stopped fighting.

As the end of the third quarter neared, Edmonds started gaining some momentum, looking to get back into the game. But the Dolphins weren’t going to let that happen. With 47 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Leiah Naeata (#30) drove to the basket and was fouled. As Naeata was hacked down, she threw the ball up towards the basket. It floated in the air for a moment before dropping straight down through the net for the and-one opportunity. Naeata, flattened on her back by the contact, grinned and let out a yell as she saw the shot go in. The gym erupted in cheers as the fans fed off the energy of the players helping their teammate off the floor with excitement.

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Naeata had a fantastic game, scoring 11 points off the bench and contributing five assists. In the scoring column, the Dolphins were led by guard Aloha Akaka’s (#12) 20 points and 9 rebounds. The other huge performance came from Taylor Eldredge (#21) who had a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds. In the end, Shoreline came out on top 64-50, adding a crucial win in their quest to compete in the NWAC tournament.

Over 100 people had crowded into the small gymnasium to watch the games, and the crowd had only grown as time went on. Emboldened by the opening victory, the fans were slowly increasing in volume and spirit. The contagious energy of the just victorious women’s team sitting in the front row to cheer on their male counterparts only increased these numbers even more.

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Comparatively, the men’s game was much tighter, a back-and-forth affair. Despite both teams having a double-digit lead at one point or another, there were nine ties and nine lead changes throughout the matchup. What is undeniable is the boost that the team drew from the crowd, an absolutely crucial aspect of their momentum.

One of the biggest swings took place with just under two minutes left in the first half. Railen Wheeler II (#20) came up with a steal and immediately sprinted the other direction, driving straight to the basket looking for the easy layup. The opponent caught up to effect the shot, but AJ Boyd (#14) was right behind his teammate, grabbing the rebound and slamming it down as the crowd erupted in cheers for his athletic dunk.

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Late in the game, Shoreline had what looked to be a safe ten-point lead but regulation time ended in a flurry. With just a minute left, Edmonds completed a three-point play to give themselves the lead 78-79. Shoreline countered with a steal and score by Boyd, putting the Dolphins back on top. Boyd then managed another steal, getting fouled as he tried to escape with possession. Able to drop in the free throws, Shoreline’s lead was three.

It looked like Shoreline’s defense was going to close out the game as Edmonds was forced to call a timeout with only five seconds remaining. The Dolphins even managed to get a deflection and force the clock to run a bit, usually a killer in these short clock situations.



But in their eagerness to defend, the Shoreline player flew past his mark, fooled by the pump fake eight feet behind the three-point line. As the shot hung in the air, the cavernous room went silent as spectators and players alike held their breaths, deflating as the shot hit nothing but net, sending the game to overtime.

The Dolphins won overtime at the free-throw line, finally earning the win they had hoped for. In the waning seconds, as it became clear the home team were going to be victorious, the crowd once again began to rise. Adding to the screams of joy coming from Shoreline players embracing each other on the court.

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One of the biggest difference-makers in this game was the 19 turnovers that Shoreline forced and converted into 28 points. It was a full team effort, but three players stood out above the rest. Jalyn Stepany (#24) was arguably the star as he led all scorers with a massive 35 points despite often being aggressively double-teamed. While Boyd and Deshawn McFerrin (#34) contributed crucial assists and rebounds respectively, on top of their 16 points each.

These games could prove to be pivotal moments in each team’s season, but they still have a number left to play. On Saturday, both teams traveled to Port Angeles to take on Peninsula. The women’s team were handed only their second loss of the conference season, causing them to now share the top spot in the standings with Peninsula. The men meanwhile, look to be turning their season around, picking up a second win in a week to improve their record to four wins and five losses.