Issaquah High’s dynamic, two-guard tandem of Brian Watson and Ty Gibson is a handful for any team to handle on a nightly basis.
Against a Bellarmine Prep squad missing one of its best perimeter defenders Friday night, the duo took full advantage of the mismatches on the floor.
Watson and Gibson combined for 40 points, and the ninth-ranked Eagles ran away from Bellarmine Prep, 64-46, in a Class 4A state regional matchup at Puyallup High School.
Issaquah (18-6) moves on to the round of eight, which begins next week at the Tacoma Dome.
Bellarmine Prep was without senior and 4A Narrows All-League player Mar’kese Jackson, who suffered a torn ACL last week in a West Central District seeding game against Stadium.
“He’s been a great kid, and a real good leader for the team,” Bellarmine Prep coach Bernie Salazar said of Jackson. “He had a great year. First-team all league — he certainly helped us get to this point.”
The injury was diagnosed Wednesday.
“We prepared all week for him to play,” Issaquah coach Jason Griffith said. “It certainly looked like they missed him.”
Nevertheless, Bellarmine Prep (15-12) hung tough in the first half, digging out of an early 9-2 hole. Rex Bodoia’s rebound and putback cut the Issaquah lead to 21-20 early in the second quarter. But over the final two minutes, Issaquah went on a quick 6-0 burst to close the half and take a 35-25 lead.
“I thought we were a step slower than them,” Salazar said. “They had more energy, better execution.”
Gibson burned the Lions for 14 points in the first half, and didn’t slow down in the third quarter.
“We knew those first four minutes (of the third quarter) were going to be the most important,” Griffith said.
Gibson, a 6-foot-3 junior, scored off a putback and a reverse layup to push the lead to 43-28. He then showed off his range, drilling a top-of-the-key 3-pointer to push the Eagles’ lead to 48-33.
“We didn’t want them to run their offense the way they wanted to, and they did a good job of running that,” Salazar said. “Their guards scored a lot of points.”
The 6-foot-2 Watson finished with 18 points, while Gibson poured in 22. The tandem also helped lead an offense that turned the ball over just eight times.
“We have kids that know how to take care of the ball,” Griffith said.
Bellarmine Prep just didn’t have enough weapons to match Issaquah’s firepower. Bodoia led the way with 16 points, six rebounds and three blocks.
“I’m really proud of our team for reaching the state tournament,” Salazar said. “For us to reach the state tournament this year is a very good accomplishment.”