Federal Way High School junior Tari Eason says, if the Eagles play their brand of basketball, he doesn’t believe there is a team in the South Sound, or perhaps the entire state, that can compete with them.
And he may be right.
The Eagles (15-1) are undefeated in Class 4A NPSL Olympic play, are averaging 78.6 points per game, and haven’t allowed an in-state opponent within 20 points of them this season.
Tuesday night in Federal Way, they continued their dominant run through league play, routing second-place Auburn, 76-56, and handing the Trojans (14-3) their first loss since December.
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And, though Auburn held the Eagles to one of their lowest totals in league play this season — and closed the gap further than any other 4A NPSL team has so far — Federal Way’s talent and depth were still noticeable.
To Eason, that shows how great the Eagles can be this season.
“If on an off night we’re winning by 20 points, and that’s a bad game, that shows how good we really are, and if we play at our best, the sky’s the limit,” he said.
The consensus four-star forward led all scorers with 26 points for Federal Way, and nearly recorded a quadruple-double, adding 17 rebounds, eight blocks and seven steals. He controlled the paint on both ends of the floor for much of the contest, helped the Eagles get out in transition, and threw down four dunks.
“Tari is a great player,” Federal Way coach Yattah Reed said. “Tari is (doing) what we try to push and keep telling our kids — you have to be better than your last game. And he’s doing that.
“In these last few games, he has improved. ... He’s been paying attention to the film and the notes he’s been given, and that’s why he’s doing what he’s doing.”
Five-star senior forward Jaden McDaniels, who is the No. 5 player in the nation in the 2019 class, added 18 points, seven rebounds and three steals. Jishai Miller (11 points, four assists) and Bradley Graham (12 points) also scored in double figures for the Eagles.
Despite the 20-point win, Reed said he thought Auburn outplayed the Eagles from wire to wire.
“They worked harder, wanted it more, didn’t give up, played all 32 minutes,” Reed said. “They played Auburn basketball. They’re a good team. They’re young, but they’re going to be good, and he’s (coach Ryan Hansen) got them going the right way and playing hard.
“Our goal is to get better every game, and tonight we didn’t, and that is the disappointing part of it. I don’t believe in off nights. ... They just outplayed us.”
Federal Way consistently crept away, and built a 19-point lead by halftime, but the Trojans kept that margin steady, losing the third and fourth quarters by a combined five points.
“Against Federal Way, the most important thing you can do is value the basketball, and take care of the basketball, because when you turn it over, it leads to transition, and they’re very good in transition,” Hansen said.
“We really talked to the boys at halftime about how important it was to take care of it, being strong with the ball, protecting the basketball, and shortening passes when you’re away from it, too.”
Auburn’s young group — 10 of the 13 players on the roster are freshmen or sophomores — also had some success frustrating the Eagles on offense, and played their best quarter in the fourth.
“We mixed in a little bit of zone defense. I thought that slowed them down a little bit,” Hansen said. “When we did a better job taking care of the ball, we got better looks on our end, and that led to some easier offense for us.”
Senior Isaiah Dunn led the Trojans with 17 points and pulled down six rebounds, while freshman Kaden Lewis added 11 points. Seven more of Auburn’s scorers were underclassmen.
“This is a special group of young kids that we have,” Hansen said. “Now they’re in the point in the season where they have a lot of experience playing at the high school level. They faced this team before. ... They don’t get rattled. I’ve seen that throughout the course of the season.”
A – Kaden Lewis 11, Trevon Blassingame 7, Amar Rivers 3, Kevin Griffin 5, Maleek Arington 2, Darrell Hester 2, Isaiah Dunn 17, Connor Howat 4, Dae’Kwon Watson 5.
FW – Jaylen-Wes Williams 7, Jishai Miller 11, Jaden McDaniels 18, Jalen Womack 6, Bradley Graham 12, Tari Eason 26.