Tony Scorola hits game-winning shot to earn 3rd in the SPSL and Girls team cruises past Olympia

Anticipation filled the air at Tacoma Community College on Feb. 4 as both Lions teams had a chance at third place in the South Puget Sound League. The difference between third and fourth is monumental for seeding at districts and could be the difference between going to play in the state tournament and staying at home. The stakes couldn’t be higher for the men’s team as going into the game the Lions lost both of their matchups against Sumner. These two teams have met countless times in the last few years and every game seems to be more competitive than the last spurring mini-rivalry between the two squads.

The women’s team played Olympia in a matchup where the Lions were heavily favored yet the job still needed to be completed on Saturday against the Bears. Would the Lions hold off the underdog Bear team? Would the men’s team get the last laugh against the Spartans? Only time would tell.

The ladies were the first team to play and from the get-go took control of the game. The Lions were never in much trouble throughout the contest and coasted through the contest in a mostly noncompetitive game. The Bears went on a late run cutting the deficit to just ten in the fourth quarter but the Lions held back the surge and ended up winning the game by double digits. The girls’ team would end up finishing third in the SPSL subsequently giving the team a very good path to the state tournament. The Lions had the potential to win the league this year as they gave Sumner their only loss of the year earlier in the season. The Spartans ended up being the eventual champions of the league later that night beating the Lions’ kryptonite Emerald Ridge Jaguars.

The Lions will head down south to Camas this Friday, Feb. 10, in a winner-goes-to-state game.

The men’s game was not as smooth sailing as the women’s game and that was of course to be expected. These two teams always give the fans a close back-and-forth game and that was of course what happened on Saturday.

As top off began, the Lions looked for an early lead but it did not come that easy. Every bucket for both teams was fought for and it turned out to be an offensive struggle for both teams early. Although not many shots were initially falling for the Lions their defense kept them in the game. The Lions’ defense has been spectacular all year ranking first in the SPSL for average points allowed.

Unfortunately, they also rank last in average points per game which is a recipe for hard-fought defensive games. Senior Malik Momoh was the primary scorer for the Lions in the first half as he used his patented spin move in the paint for a few layups and controlled the boards which led to a few easy putbacks.

Junior Dylan Wiggins made his presence felt early as well, punishing the Spartans’ undersized lineup going to work in the paint, and finishing through contact at the rim. Although the Lions seemed to be playing better basketball than the Spartans every time you looked up at the scoreboard they hung with the Lions and at one point took a three-possession lead. Going into the second half the score was tight and the Lions would need to figure out a way to produce on offense. Fortunately, Tony Scorola was up for the task.

Scorola is a 6’0 senior point guard for the Lions who has had a more than solid year but has not been the team’s primary scorer. Scorola has great handles, runs a smooth offense, does not get bothered in the full court, and makes the right decisions.

As the point guard of the team, his mindset has been all year to distribute the basketball and create the best open shot for the Lions, but on Saturday you could sense a slight shift in philosophy as he began to take over the game. Scorola to some may be considered an undersized guard but his sneaky quickness and athleticism allow him to penetrate and finish at the rim and he did just that in two crucial positions down the stretch.

In a moment where the Spartans seemed to get a spark of momentum with a few defensive stops and a couple of timely baskets Scorola came down the floor and whilst falling to the floor threw up a layup off of the glass while being fouled. The ball
seemingly hung on the rim forever and finally found the net. Although Scorola did not convert the three-point play he came down the floor minutes later in the fourth quarter and gave the Lions a lead with a similar shot.

Senior Sam Inderbitzen also had a huge “and 1” shot late in the fourth quarter with some nifty footwork in the key. The Spartans would not go away though and a huge perimeter shot with under a minute left evened up the score at 44 apiece. The Lions
would have to find an answer with the most important game of the year on the line.

Tony Scorola came down the court looking cool and collected. The ball was swung a few times and he ended up with the ball at the top of the three-point line with 20 seconds left. Senior Malik Momoh came over for the screen and Scorola calmly executed a crossover into a three-point attempt with a leaping defender in his eyes. As the ball slowly rotated in the air it seemed like time stopped. Every player on the team has fought their entire life to play in games like these.

You grow up dreaming about shooting a game-winning shot in a tie game against one of your league rivals. Countless years of dedication, grit, and determination all culminated in one shot and as the ball continued to move in slow motion toward the basket Tony Scorola got an opportunity to see his hard work come to fruition.

Cold Blooded.

The shot was good from downtown and after a defensive stop, the Lions pulled off the upset beating the Spartans 47-44 securing third place in the SPSL and a very favorable route to the state tournament. With the win on Saturday the Lions will play Camas in a winner gets into the state tournament game. Camas is always a tough challenge and the Lions will have to travel three hours south on Saturday in hopes to pull off an upset against one of the most fundamentally sound teams in the state and electric fan bases in the Pacific Northwest.

If the Lions fall short Saturday, state chances are still very much a possibility as they would most likely play an Emerald Ridge team who they have split within their two meetings this year. The Lions would then play another game in a win and in scenario. However, the way the Lions are playing they may need only Saturday to secure their ticket to state.

Lions huddle up before the game. (Photo Courtesy of Chris Carpenter @partishotem on instagram)