The Jaguars handled Federal Way's pressure and took advantage of a short-handed Eagles team missing three starters out for disciplinary reasons.
FEDERAL WAY — Emerald Ridge had to overcome two kinds of pressure on Tuesday.
The first was the most obvious and the most noticeable: The Jaguars had to deal with Federal Way’s in-your-face press defense that caused them so many problems in a 30-point loss earlier in the season. But the second was a bit more nuanced: Emerald Ridge had to stave off the mental pressure that goes along with playing on the road, against the second-ranked boys basketball team in Class 4A.
In corralling both, Emerald Ridge pulled off a 68-57 upset on Tuesday against previously undefeated Federal Way. It was Emerald Ridge’s first win against Federal Way since the South Hill school opened in 2000, according to second-year coach Pat Mullen.
“We just handled all the pressure really well tonight,” said Emerald Ridge senior guard Kendall McClain, who finished with 20 points.
Federal Way (11-1, 8-1 SPSL South) played without starters Brayon Blake, DeeShawn Tucker and D’Londo Tucker, a trio who combined for 32 points just three nights before in a 41-point win against Puyallup.
Federal Way coach Jerome Collins said the three didn’t play because of “disciplinary measures,” and he didn’t know their status for the rest of the season. The three combined for 38 points in Federal Way’s 69-39 win against Emerald Ridge (9-2, 6-2) in the third game of the season.
“That’s big,” Mullen said. “I’m not going to say it’s not. I’m hoping it would be the same situation, but that’s probably why. But the other reason why is the first half of the first game we played, we turned it over. And the second half of that game we turned it over. We didn’t do that this time.”
Indeed, Emerald Ridge actually looked more comfortable with Federal Way’s high-intensity press as the game wore on. The Jaguars still had 16 turnovers, including 10 in the second half, but rarely did those turnovers lead to easy points on the other end.
“We just took care of the ball better,” Mullen said. “Sometimes it wasn’t pretty, but we got enough shots that it kept us in the game.”
Emerald Ridge trailed by two at halftime, but the Jaguars slowly pulled away in the third quarter. The momentum-changer came in the final seconds, when senior guard Ryan Dougherty buried a 30-footer at the buzzer that gave Emerald Ridge a 48-41 lead.
Malik Montoya, a sophomore, tried his best to keep Federal Way close with 20 points, including seven in the fourth quarter, but the Eagles never got closer than five.
Emerald Ridge stayed in front despite two starters — Marcus Harris and Jeremy Harris — sitting on the bench for an extended period of time with foul trouble.
“You see those two guys sitting next to you and you’re thinking, ‘Oh my God, here we go. Somebody else is going to have to step up,’ ” Mullen said. “And we had a couple guys do that.”
Marcus Harris, the team’s leading scorer who is rounding back into form after missing time with an injury earlier this season, finished with 15 points. Jeremy Harris scored 12. Drew Livingston chipped in with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Emerald Ridge has already tied its SPSL win total from last year. The Jaguars went just 11-49 the three years before Mullen arrived.
Federal Way, meanwhile, went 14 of 29 from the free-throw line and struggled defensively after halftime.
“We had some defensive lapses,” Collins said, “and it cost us.”