A pair of minor injuries forced the Federal Way High School boys basketball team to adapt to an unfamiliar lineup early, and the Eagles held off a too-little, too-late fourth-quarter rally by host Todd Beamer to win a Class 4A SPSL North season-opening showdown, 72-65, on Tuesday night.
Federal Way’s usual starting post, Malcolm Cola, was held out with a minor knee sprain and point guard Jalen Womack suffered a slight injury in the first quarter.
But behind Jalen McDaniels’ 20 points the Eagles held a double-digit advantage most of the night.
“That was a big adjustment, Jalen (McDaniels) had to move from the three to the four, and then our point guard went out,” Eagles coach Jerome Collins said.
But the game couldn’t have started out any better for Federal Way, which took an 11-0 lead, with senior guard Ferron Flavors scoring all the points.
“We wanted to come out and punch them in the mouth,” Beamer coach Brent Bilhante said. “Instead, they punched us in the mouth. We were on our heels right from the start.”
The Titans managed to cut their deficit to three at one point in the first half, 17-14, on a pair of free throws by DeShane Riley, but an Eagles burst — fueled by back-to-back 3-pointers by D’Jimon Jones, who finished with 18 points , and a dunk by McDaniels — pushed the margin back to 11 by halftime.
A Jones jumper in the final minute of the third quarter put the Eagles ahead 55-35 and the issue seemed decided.
But Beamer wing Amari McLemore had other ideas.
With 5:43 left in the game, McLemore caught a pass at the foul line, turned and dunked hard through a thicket of three Federal Way defenders.
The home crowd, quietly resigned at that point, erupted and continued to roar through a pair of Eagles’ free throws and a 3-pointer by Beamer’s Kiere McCoy.
“I wasn’t going to give up,” said McLemore, who used the dunk as a spark for 11 fourth-quarter points to finish with 17. “I didn’t consciously decide to try to make a big play, it just happened. I really appreciated the way our crowd reacted.”
Conversely, Collins appreciated the way his team reacted.
The burst briefly cut the Eagles’ lead to eight — with enough time for the Titans to mount a long-shot comeback — but Federal Way held them off.
“I’m not pleased with us losing our composure,” he said. “But when we did have to defend and get our composure back, we did. We have to stay structurally sound and to learn from our mistakes.”
Brilhante appreciated the way his team came to life against the defending 4A state champions, but wished the spark had come sooner.
“That’s what we were trying to do, but you can’t wait for a big play,” he said. “I’m excited about our kids and the rest of the season, but I’m disappointed with our effort tonight.”
Federal Way 16 15 24 17 – 72
Todd Beamer 11 9 17 28 – 65
FW – D’Jimon Jones 18, Ferron Flavors 17, Elijah Nnanabu 0, Mykael Henry 0, Jalen McDaniels 20, Jalen Womack 0, Marcus Stephens 8, Jaden McDaniels 0, Etan Collins 2, Christian Jones 7, Palofino Jatta 0.
TB – Amari McLemore 17, Patrick Kennedy 6, Gio Jackson 12, Stef’fun Singleton 7, Deshane Riley 2, Kiere McCoy 6, Phillip Robbinson 0, Abraham Murray 10, Richard Frazier 5