The view so far is pretty nice from the top of the Northeast A League boys’ basketball standings for Medical Lake.
Following wins last week, Tuesday by a 65-36 score at Kettle Falls and then 38-31 over visiting Freeman last Friday, the Cardinals share the top spot with Chewelah with 3-0 records as the league takes a Christmas break.
Medical Lake, 5-3 overall, broke open a game they led just 15-14 after the opening quarter by holding the Bulldogs (0-3, 4-5) to single-digit scoring the rest of the way. They led 30-14 at the half.
“Kettle Falls plays on a smaller court. We had to adjust to that a little too,” Cardinals’ head coach Arnold Brown said. “It took a little getting used to.”
Senior guard Austin Garza led the Cardinals with 16 points, while fellow senior Adam Paulson added 12. “He did a good job of getting the open guys the ball,” Brown said of Garza. “He got eight assists that day too.”
Medical Lake turned up the intensity after the break and cruised from there outscoring the Bulldogs 22-6. “We shot pretty well,” Brown said. “I think we ended up making eight 3s.”
The return home against Freeman (1-1, 1-6) Friday night proved to be a tougher chore. “We’ve been on the road so much that coming home maybe wasn’t like coming home,” Brown said. The Cardinals and Scotties were tied 7-7 after one quarter and ML held a 17-16 lead at the break.
It wasn’t until the second half that Medical Lake was able to pull away, and that just barely as they led 25-23 through three quarters. A 13-9 edge in the final quarter, provided in part by a pair of late free throws from Paulson and part of a game-high and team-leading 12 points, supplied the final margin. Michael Winchester added eight points
“We didn’t shoot very well at all, 8-for-33 or something like that,” Brown said of the low scoring contest. But they did take care of the ball by committing just three turnovers.
Brown also singled out the defense, “We just kind of maintained our D,” he said. “It was kind of a typical game, rugged and physical.”
The holiday break will end with games at the West Valley Tournament in Spokane, Thursday and Friday, Dec. 27 and 28 with the Cardinals opening against Bonners Ferry and capping play against Timberlake. Each game is scheduled for 5:45 p.m. with a girls’ game prior.
After their two tournament contests and a trip to Newport Jan. 4 for a return to league action, then Medical Lake is home for four consecutive games.
Brown will welcome junior Steven Velasquez back into the line-up after he suffered a foot injury. “He’s going to be our eighth guy.”
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.