Brayon Blake had 20 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocks as the fifth-ranked Eagles advanced in the West Central 4A District tournament.

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FEDERAL WAY — Federal Way coach Jerome Collins admitted his team didn’t play its best basketball on Wednesday.

But what the Eagles lacked in crispness or precision, they made up for with a mix of overwhelming physicality inside and a gritty defensive effort. That combination allowed No. 5 Federal Way to beat Mount Rainier 70-60 in the West Central 4A District tournament.

“I thought we had the opportunity to put the game away, and we didn’t,” Collins said. “But when we lost momentum and they cut our lead to four, I thought we did a great job of establishing ourselves and finding our offense. Those are positive things we can build on.”

The difference was Brayon Blake, Federal Way’s 6-foot-7 forward, who entered the night averaging 14 points per game. Mount Rainier didn’t have an answer for Blake inside, and he finished with 20 points, 14 rebounds and four blocked shots.

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“I thought he controlled the paint, controlled the glass,” Collins said. “I thought that was the difference. They didn’t really get any offensive boards, and we repeatedly got offensive rebounds.”

Federal Way (19-3) opened the third quarter on a 6-0 run, extending the lead to 11. That’s the margin by which Federal Way led at the end of the third quarter, but Mount Rainier (13-8) started clawing back in the fourth.

Caden Rowland scored nine of his game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter, and his two free throws with 3:35 left cut Federal Way’s lead to four.

But the Rams couldn’t get any closer as Federal Way knocked down 11 of 14 free throws in the final quarter.

“Effort wasn’t the issue,” Mount Rainier coach Ken Bush said. “I just think a little bit of their physicality toward the end of the game hurt.”

Federal Way also received significant contributions from Malik Montoya. Montoya, a sophomore guard, asserted himself in the second half and scored 18 of his 22 points after halftime.

The Eagles have won seven straight games and will play Bellarmine Prep at Mount Tahoma High School on Friday. The winner of that game secures a spot in regionals.

Federal Way guard Adrian Davis, a transfer from Mount Rainier, scored 13 points against his former team.

“We’re not playing our best basketball right now, but I liked our defensive effort,” Collins said. “We did a great job limiting them. We’re young. We did what we had to do down the stretch.”

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