The Clover Park boys basketball team had its way with White River on its home court last season.
The Hornets haven’t forgotten.
Spencer Swigart scored 15 points as one of four White River players to score in double figures as it held off a late charge led by the Warriors’ Philip Winston for a 60-53 2A South Puget Sound League road victory on Friday night.
These teams played each other three times last season, with Clover Park winning the last two, including a 25-point win at home and another victory in the West-Central District semifinal game.
“We knew we had a chip on our shoulder today,” said White River’s Dustin France, who finished with 13 points. “They destroyed us here last time and it was a tough loss.”
The Hornets took control of the tempo, forcing Winston into tough shots and built a 14-point lead in the third quarter.
Then came the fourth quarter.
Winston scored half of his game-high 26 points in the final period, and cut White River’s lead to 53-49 with a dunk on a fast break and a great look off a double team that led to a Trey Martin jump shot from the corner with 41 seconds left.
But White River pulled away by making 7 of 9 free throws after that -- finishing at 24 for 38 for the game.
“We learned we will probably be a lot more successful if we shoot free throws better than (13 for 26) and probably a lot more successful if we don’t let other teams score plus (11) from the free throw line,” Clover Park coach Mel Ninnis said.
He also learned his team can play with anyone in the open court. That’s where the Warriors held the advantage and used it to lead late into the second quarter.
That was until White River figured out how to slow them down. The Hornets made a run at the end of the first half then broke away to start the third, using a 10-0 run -- helped by a Ninnis technical foul -- to lead by 36-22
“We made some adjustments on how we wanted to approach their transition,” said White River coach Rick Tripp. “We knew they were going to try to push the ball, just from playing them in years past. That’s the way they want to play and we knew we needed to stop that.
“It’s safe to say we know them.”
With last year’s leading scorer David Crisp (22.1 points per game last year) having transferred to Rainier Beach, Winston, his cousin, is counted on to provide Clover Park’s leadership.
Crisp was in attendance for the game, and Ninnis said that might have been one of a few factors that led to Winston struggling from the field in the first half (five points) and a subsequent halftime pep talk.
“I told him at halftime to go to the doctor and surgically remove his head from his butt and that was the worst he had ever played,” Ninnis said. “So I knew he was definitely going to do better in the second half.”
He did. It just wasn’t quite enough.
“I kind of put the blame on me because (White River is) not more skilled than us,” Winston said.
Even in the loss, Ninnis was encouraged by Clover Park’s effort against a team with far more players having returned from last year.
“Philip’s basketball skills are so good, I personally think -- though I’m biased -- that he and Donaven Dorsey (UW commit at Timberline) are the best players around. We are going to be as good as Philip is a teammate.”TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677 firstname.lastname@example.org @Cotterill44