Hornets close to claiming league championship

Hornets and Lancers battle under the boards.

Enumclaw High’s entire squad recognized the Lakes High junior guard who stepped to the charity stripe Thursday evening with just one second left as his team trailing the Hornets 50-49 at a packed and exceedingly noisy Chuck Smith Gymnasium.

It was Andre Winston Jr., the South Puget Sound League 3A’s leading scorer and the guy that put up 28 points against the Hornets when the two squads tangled Jan. 9 and the Hornets emerged with a relatively easy 65-51 win.

So, it was understandable that the Hornet players were sweating buckets. Winston could tie the game with a single free throw or, by sinking a pair, give his Lancers the win.

The two prep powerhouses were tied in the league standings with 12-1 marks and the the Hornets were quite familiar with this kid’s work.

It might have been EHS’ roaring rooters rattling Winston’s nerves or it could have just been the basketball gods smiling down upon the Hornets. But whatever the reason, the sharpest shooter in the league went awry with both golden opportunities, giving Enumclaw the 50-49 triumph that elevated the Hornets’ SPSL 3A record to a lucky 13-1.

The conquest over the Lancers virtually assured the Hornets of earning their second league title in their past three campaigns. Heading into this week, only two regular season contests remained on Enumclaw’s docket. The team was at Franklin Pierce Tuesday night, with the results of that encounter coming too late to report here, and White River will visit EHS Friday.

In the critical cliffhanger win over Lakes, Enumclaw didn’t shoot particularly well from the floor until the game’s late going and turned over the ball five times in each half. The maroon and gold got its swerve on in the second half though and kept coming back. Just before the end of the third stanza, Enumclaw reeled off a half dozen unanswered points and one minute into the fourth frame the score was knotted at 39 apiece.

The biggest difference in the SPSL 3A battle of top dogs came in the final seven minutes when Enumclaw was knocking down clutch shots and Lakes was not. With 1:35 remaining, Riley Carel, who contributed 11 points and 12 rebounds in the barnburner, buried a 3-pointer to put EHS up 48-47. Following a Lakes bucket, Jayson Lewis put the Hornets ahead for keeps as he managed to penetrate the paint for an uncontested jumper directly under the hoop that made it 50-49.

“This all-around great game was what high school basketball is all about, two great young squads that have been mirroring one another all year, fighting it out in what was essentially the SPSL 3A championship game. It just doesn’t get any better than this,” Lakes coach JoJo Rodriguez said.