For the Federal Way Eagles to play their pesky, ball-hawking defense, they need someone to make the defense go.
Brayon Blake, a 6-foot-7 junior forward/center, has embraced that role.
With Blake directing traffic, altering shots and clogging passing lanes, the Federal Way defense was in fine form Tuesday night, as the Eagles led from start to finish in a 68-39 win over host Emerald Ridge in a SPSL South Division battle in Puyallup.
“When I’m on the court, I think my team has a lot of energy,” said Blake, who had 20 points and seven rebounds — both game highs. “I’m in the back, so I have to talk to my teammates. I think me talking (from the back line) gets my teammates up, so that’s how we get more steals on defense.”
Federal Way (3-0, 2-0 SPSL South) wasted no time clamping down on the Jaguars, opening a 10-2 lead with 3 minutes, 18 seconds left in the first quarter. Emerald Ridge turned the ball over on six of its opening seven possessions.
“It’s ball pressure, it’s movement; it allows us to get out on the break and run,” Eagles coach Jerome Collins said. “I thought we did a good job of taking them out of their sets.”
Blake’s putback bucket before the first quarter buzzer pushed the lead to 19-6. The lead ballooned to 30-13 midway through the second quarter after D’londo Tucker drilled a 3-pointer from the corner off Blake’s top-of-the-key pass. Emerald Ridge (3-1, 1-1) turned the ball over 13 times in the first half, and the Eagles continued to apply pressure and led after three quarters, 50-24.
“The tough part is you don’t get to see that pressure all the time,” Emerald Ridge coach Pat Mullen said. “In our league you see it twice, maybe three times. It’s hard to simulate that in practice.”
Blake showed off a variety of moves on offense, scoring in the low post, hitting midrange jumpers and even stepping out and knocking down a 3-pointer (“I’ve been practicing that,” he said with a laugh). He also went 5-for-5 from the free-throw line.
“He’s versatile, and that’s what we like about him,” Collins said. “He can play (positions) one through five.”
Federal Way also got key contributions from Tucker (10 points, two steals), DeeShawn Tucker (eight points, five rebounds) and Malik Montoya (14 points).
Jeremy Harris’ 16 points led the way for Emerald Ridge, which was playing without leading scorer Marcus Harris (hip flexor).