Clover Park High School basketball beats the Foss Falcons

This unofficial “tribute season” at Clover Park took a positive step forward on Friday night.

Four Warriors scored in double figures, Marcel Hurst recorded a double-double and Clover Park ran away from host Foss in the second half for a 75-53 Class 2A victory in the South Puget Sound League.

Clover Park is playing its first season since 1994 without longtime coach Mel Ninnis, who lost his battle with cancer last August.

“At the start of the season it was a bit difficult with everything that was going on and losing Mel,” said former assistant and now head coach Anthony Crawford. “They’re dedicating this year to Mel. Right before the season, when they asked for a new head coach, me and Ryan (Ninnis, Mel’s son) talked about it. It was normal for us to go from there. before.

However, the season started a bit difficult. Between stoppages and starts due to Covid-19 protocols, including the cancellation of the team’s second game of the year, the Christmas layoff and then the snow storm just before the start of the new year , Clover Park had started off slow in bobbing and weaving to an overall record of 4-4 and 3-3 in the SPSL.

But on Friday at the Falcons, Hurst dominated on the glass with 10 rebounds as he and John Simpson each scored a game-high 17 points to roll the Warriors.

The big move came in the third quarter which saw Clover Park beat Foss 28-12, extending a modest but comfortable 33-25 lead to an insurmountable 61-37 advantage early in the fourth quarter. Simpson scored eight of his 17 goals in the period to lead the charge.

Not that this team found satisfaction with the big win.

“I think we could have played better than that, even tonight,” Hurst said. “We had a tough game at home against Enumclaw, we played scrappy and everything. But against this team, I think we could have played better.

Clover Park took an early lead, 7-2, only for the Falcons (4-5, 2-3) to get back there. Jamie Killian-Howard scored four of his 13 points, the second field goal with 1 minute and 54 seconds left in the first quarter, to give Foss a 12-9 lead.

But Erenst Balezi’s lay-up at the quarter buzzer tied the game at 15-15. He stayed tight for the first five minutes of the second quarter before Clover Park finished the half on an 11-2 surge to take that 33-25 lead at the break.

“Now that we’re back in the gym, I think everything is falling into place,” Crawford said. “Marcel has always been a leader, ever since he was a freshman. But we have a very good team. So anytime any of us can step in. The other night Xavier Patterson was 18.”

Against the Falcons, Patterson had 11 and Balezi added 10 to go with the 17-point scoring pair.

“Tonight John Simpson was 17,” Crawford continued. “So it’s total teamwork. They play so hard, and I love it. This year is going to be a very emotional season for us, and they’re playing like that right now.

Ninnis had cultivated this group which includes eight seniors and juniors throughout the delayed Covid-19 season last spring before things took a turn for the worse this summer. That left Simpson, Balezi, Patter, Hurst and the rest of the guys with a mission to go to the districts, maybe regional or beyond.

“This year we just got back to the gym and working, working,” Hurst said. “We just have to put the chemistry together, build the brotherhood, the family. We do it for Coach Ninnis.

About Kimberly Alley

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