This game was big. As far as non-league contests go, this one meant a whole lot.
Undefeated Federal Way came into Skyview’s Storm Cellar and the Storm cruised. In a coach’s dream outing, the Storm used slick ball movement, tough offensive rebounding and minimal turnovers in a 78-73 victory Thursday. Skyview never trailed the second half and built a lead as big as 10 with a minute to play.
“Very big,” Skyview junior Squeeky Johnson said of the win. “It’s kind of a statement win.”
Johnson caught fire in the second half, scoring 21 of his game-high 27 points as Skyview turned a 36-32 halftime lead into a 72-62 advantage before the Eagles started fouling late. Johnson was 6 of 11 from 3-point range and had four assists.
“We know he can shoot,” coach Matt Gruhler said. “Squeeky has been of the best shooters I’ve seen since he was in middle school.”
When Johnson is in rhythm and knocking down his shots, the Storm thrive. Kyle Gruhler was a primary benefactor, chipping in 20 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Jace Chatman added 19 points and four assists.
“When he starts hitting those shots, they have to edge out a little more,” Kyle Gruhler said of Johnson. “Today was a very, very good job by him. I had some easier 1-on-1 shots in the post.”
The Eagles (10-1) were ranked No. 2 in The Seattle Times’ most recent rankings. That was before Federal Way rolled through the T-Town Throwdown over the holidays. Still on winter break, Skyview (9-2) had plenty of time to think about Thursday night’s premier showdown.
After a morning shootaround and film study, the Storm players had to fight off the nervous energy.
“We basically had all day to yourself, to think, to relax. It’s tough,” said Kyle Gruhler, who chose to spend his time playing NBA 2K.
Perhaps the video games gave the Storm some insight into beating a long, fast Federal Way. Or possibly it was the past week in Phoenix, where Skyview placed second in the Cactus Jam that gave the Storm their chemistry Thursday.
Whatever it was, coach Gruhler will want the recipe repeated. Skyview’s ball movement was stellar, the Storm committed just one first-half turnover (six on the game), and the team hauled in nine offensive rebounds. Cody McKinney had five offensive boards.
“We’ve known we can play at that level; we haven’t always shown it,” coach Gruhler said. “This was a good chance to do that. You don’t get teams of that caliber in non-conference come into your place often. We definitely wanted to take advantage.”
After a back-and-forth first quarter, in which the score was tied four times and the lead changed hands thrice, the Storm went on a 7-0 run with 4:30 remaining to take a 27-23 lead they never relinquished.
Federal Way’s Peter Erickson, who finished with 23 points, tried to make up the deficit with 10 consecutive points for the Eagles to carve the lead to 49-46 late in the third quarter. But Johnson responded with a pair of 3-pointers to close the frame and squash the Federal Way run.
The Eagles again drew close, 60-58, on a Jared Franklin 3-pointer, but the Storm, led by eight Johnson points, responded with a 12-4 run to make it 72-62 with 1:01 to play.
Skyview travels to play Capital on Saturday before 4A Greater St. Helens League play begins next week.
SKYVIEW 78, FEDERAL WAY 73
FEDERAL WAY (10-1) — Jaylen-Wes Williams 14, Peter Erickson 23, Marcus Cole 8, Jared Franklin 14, Bradley Graham 14, Jaden Call 0, Lamar Johnson 0, Keki Pedebone 0, Dace Pleasant 0. Totals 24-48 (9-17) 13-13 73.
SKYVIEW (9-2) — Mehkai Brooks 0, Squeeky Johnson 27, Xavier Owens 0, Cole Bain 0, Alec Marshall 4, Kyle Gruhler 20, Jace Chatman 19, Cody McKinney 8. Totals 28-53 (10-20) 12-18 78.
Fed. Way 19 13 17 24—73
Skyview 16 20 16 26—78