Raven Benton has experienced a lot of the Michael Jordan syndrome this year.
That isn’t a good thing, considering it’s typically when one player isolates at the top of the key while the rest watch, their feet seemingly planted in cement blocks instead of fighting to get open.
But even though Benton, the second-best scorer in the state, fouled out with 1:25 left and Federal Way clinging to a two-point lead, her Eagles teammates learned to close the deal without her in a 52-51 SPSL 4A victory over visiting Todd Beamer on Friday night – the Titans’ first conference loss of the season.
“Everybody on other teams thinks it’s only me,” said Benton, who came into the game averaging 27.2 points a game. “But we have a good team. If we can pull it together as a unit, we can go far.”
That had become more evident as Federal Way (12-2, 8-2 SPSL 4A) rode a four-game winning streak into its matchup with division-leading Beamer (10-3, 8-1).
“When we started the season, it was like every time down the court it was Michael Jordan syndrome – Raven gets the ball and the rest watch her,” said Federal Way coach Joshua DeYoe. “We’ve had more girls step up, not being afraid to shoot, with every game. As we do that more, I think we’ve shown we can play pretty well.”
Benton’s 20th point of the night pushed Federal Way’s lead to 51-47 with a minute and a half to go, but she was whistled for her fifth foul the next possession when Beamer’s Bria Rice grabbed an offensive rebound and scored, despite the contact.
“I thought that was the turning point,” said Beamer coach Corey Alexander. “Especially with our pressure defense and them not having their best ballhandler.”
The Titans got the ball back, but Rice’s pass to Megan Huff, who finished with 17 points and nine rebounds, went out of bounds with 23 seconds left.
Then Federal Way’s Jill Honrade banked in a free throw to push the lead to 52-49 with 15 seconds left. Beamer’s Nia Alexander scored to cut it to one, but it left just 2.5 seconds on the clock, and Federal Way converted a long inbounds pass to Kayla Smith to leave no time for the Titans to earn their first win against the Eagles in school history (0-7).
“This is what we are trying to build,” DeYoe said. “Yes, we are going to ride Raven big time, but she won’t be around next year.
“Raven is huge for us, but these other girls have to step up. The sooner they do so, the better our future looks.”
Smith and Mariyah Vongsaveng each scored nine points for the Eagles.
Federal Way had a lot of trouble with Beamer’s defense in the first half – committing 21 turnovers – but had just five in the second half. That had a lot to do with players reacting and moving to get open more in the second half instead of watching Benton isolate most of the time in the first.