Michael Hale III had a career-high 35 points in the Roadrunners' 78-75 win over the Redhawks.
Michael Hale III had a healthy rooting section Thursday night at KeyArena. And he didn’t let his people down.
Hale, a 5-foot-9, 150-pound wisp of a point guard who helped Federal Way High to the 2009 state 4A basketball championship, poured in a career-high 35 points on the same floor where he used to worship Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp, and his Texas-San Antonio team won just its second game since Thanksgiving over Seattle University, 78-75.
“My father always told me, ‘Don’t come home and play sorry,’ ” said a happy Hale after the game. “I couldn’t disappoint my father.”
The only disappointment Hale created was on the other bench and among the skimpy crowd of 2,328. He hit the first two baskets of the game and then capped a 16-for-17 night at the foul line by downing six straight free throws in the last three minutes to hang a seventh loss in eight games on Seattle U, which fell to 6-12 and 1-7 in the WAC.
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It was a breakthrough win for the Roadrunners (5-13, 1-7), who had lost 12 of 13. They also started what might have been the shortest lineup in Division I — no starter taller than 6-4 — as they make do without 6-8 forward Jeromie Hill because of a knee injury.
“It’s been a real tough season,” said Hale. “But we don’t quit. We come to practice every day and we work hard.”
When Seattle U worked hardest — slapping a physical, full-court press on the Roadrunners in the second half — it was its most effective. But the Redhawks hurt themselves with a familiar albatross — turnovers. They’re 344th out of 345 Division I teams in giving the ball away, and they had 20 on this night.
“It’s another one where you have chances, but where you not only can’t put it in the hole, you can’t even get it up to the hole,” lamented Seattle U coach Cameron Dollar. “We turned the ball over probably every way you can tonight — transition, half-court, big, medium, small, baseline-out-of-bounds, sideline-out-of-bounds, zone, man. You can’t do that.”
Indeed, turnovers were the Redhawks’ Achilles heel during the key stretch of the game. After trailing at half, 38-31, and later, 58-46, the Redhawks scrapped back into it with their press, and finally got their first tie at 65, on D’Vonne Pickett’s reverse layup with 6:03 left.
Chad Rasmussen then tried a too-quick three that would have given the hosts their first lead, but he missed, and then Seattle U. committed four straight turnovers and the Roadrunners edged back into the lead with free throws.
Still, Allen Tate’s two free throws at 3:11 drew the Redhawks within 69-68. Then Hale was fouled on a drive at 2:50, and he hit two himself, and the victory-starved Roadrunners added enough free throws down the stretch to stave off the Redhawks.
Hale went to North Idaho JC out of Federal Way, saying, “I wasn’t ready for D-1. It was a great experience.”
So, too, his last two games. He dropped in 31 on Texas State last Saturday, giving him 66 in two games, and he’s in the WAC top 10 in seven different categories.
“First off, I don’t care about points or anything, as long as we get the win,” Hale said. “I thank God for what we did. It was a blessing for me to knock down shots.”
A whole array of them.