How will the Capital High School boys basketball team perform in the playoffs without the Class 3A South Sound Conference’s most valuable player?
TJ Mickelson, the Cougars’ stud point guard who broke his collarbone going up for a rebound against North Thurston last week, is happy with the result.
Prior to Wednesday’s night’s opening game of the 3A West Central/Southwest bidistrict tournament, Mickelson stood near half court, high-fiving his teammates as they warmed up.
Then, sitting on Capital’s bench, he watched as his brother, Matt, and the Cougars walloped Lakes, 74-45, to advance to the second round.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The News Tribune
“My brother’s been more aggressive,” TJ Mickelson said. “He’s stepped into a big role of playing the point and kind of (running) the team. … He picked up where I left off.”
Matt Mickelson tossed in 14 points, and dished the ball out to teammates, as one of four Cougars in double figures.
Chris Penner scored a season-high 28 points to push Capital’s winning streak to nine games.
“We’re a team,” Matt Mickelson said. “We knew we had to step up and we did. … We just came ready to play, like always.”
Matt Mickelson approached Capital coach Brian Vandiver following his brother’s injury to ask to take over his role.
That would keep Penner — who is averaging a team-high 19.2 points per game — as a shooting guard.
“I just knew everyone had to step up,” Matt Mickelson said. “I knew Penner was better at the off-guard, and he can get more shots if I’m feeding him the ball.
“That’s exactly what TJ did, so I just wanted to make sure he got the ball as much as possible.”
“I thought the kids responded really well,” Vandiver said. “I thought we played with great energy from the get-go. We do a good job of sharing the ball. We’re a team.”
TJ Mickelson, who was averaging 14.3 points per game before his injury, is missed on the floor, but Vandiver said others are starting to contribute more.
“When he went down, that was very emotional for our team, and the way it happened, we were a bucket of tears in the locker room. It was a scary situation,” Vandiver said.
“They came to practice the next day, still kind of emotional, and we had probably the best practice we’ve had all year.”
The Cougars beat Gig Harbor two days later to close the regular season, and didn’t let up Wednesday.
Capital (19-2) held Lakes to three baskets from the floor in the first half, and took a 38-12 lead into the break.
Jack Collard and Chris Schnellman each added 10 points for the Cougars.
The Lancers, led by Jaylen Moreno’s 12 points, were limited to 15-of-49 shooting (30.6 percent).
“If guys will just play defense and rebound, the offense will take care of itself,” Vandiver said.
Capital continued to pad the lead, which rose to as many as 36 points in the fourth quarter.
“Our game plan was defensive mindset,” Penner said.
The Cougars move on to play Spanaway Lake (15-6) in the second round at 7:45 p.m. Friday at Olympia.
If Capital wins, it will clinch its first trip to the Tacoma Dome since 2009. Before that, Capital hadn’t advanced to the state tournament since the 1990s.
Capital — which is No. 4 in the WIAA’s RPI rankings — is guaranteed a trip if it finishes in the top five in the district tournament.
“Every game is a new season, and we play like it’s the first game,” Matt Mickelson said. “We’re always ready to give it our best.”
Lakes (8-13) meets Fort Vancouver (13-7) in a loser-out game at 7:45 p.m. Friday at Capital.
Lakes 3 9 18 15_45
Capital 18 20 21 15_74
L – Nykowski 6, Milligan 9, Wayne 6, Ellison 5, Moreno 12, Johnson 3, Cole 2, Miller 2
C – M. Mickelson 14, Penner 28, Landers 5, Bertelli 1, Layton 4, Collard 10, Schnellman 10