EJ boys win big against Vashon

By Brian MacKenzie and Ethan Riker
Posted 1/24/24



East Jefferson boys’ basketball came out strong and kept their playoff hopes alive with a clutch 82-61 road win over the Vashon Island Pirates on Jan. 10.

“We …

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EJ boys win big against Vashon




East Jefferson boys’ basketball came out strong and kept their playoff hopes alive with a clutch 82-61 road win over the Vashon Island Pirates on Jan. 10.

“We got into a groove, got things going early” with a “run-and-gun sort of action,” said Rivals coach Stuart Dow. “After that, it was smooth sailing.”

"We wanted to make sure we had the win before we started to have fun and get some highlights," said senior point guard Brody Moore, who led the Rivals with 31 points.

Senior guard Gary Zambor lauded Moore’s “dazzling ability to finish at the rim.” Junior guard Traycen Brown contributed another 14 points.

East Jefferson capitalized fully on the height advantage of their towering posts, the 6-foot-8 Dow and 6-foot-7 Keidan Guzman, both seniors.

Dow scored a dozen points, seized 21 rebounds, and blocked six shots. 

According to the high school sports rankings website MaxPreps, Dow’s 5.9 blocks per game currently leads all high school athletes in Washington state, and ranks fourth best in the U.S.

Guzman scored 12 points, grabbed 13 defensive rebounds, and had six assists.

With the win, the Rivals improved to 4-3 and rose to fifth place in the nine-team Nisqually League.

The loss left the winless Pirates still stranded at seabottom, 0-7 in ninth place.

EJ’s victory over Vashon helped wash away the agony of defeat from the prior Friday at Bellevue Christian. Entering the contest undefeated, the Vikings leapt out to a commanding 15-2 lead in the first quarter.

“We couldn't find a rhythm,” said Moore. “The shots just wouldn't fall.”

Between quarters, the Rivals regrouped and figured it out in the huddle.

East Jefferson played Bellevue Christian more evenly in the second quarter: the Rivals put up 11 points to the Vikings’ 13. However, after halftime Bellevue Christian poured it on again, outscoring the Rivals 24-5 in the third quarter.

“We get in our heads and that tends to make it a challenge to come back when we’re down,” Dow said.

EJ rallied valiantly and outscored the Vikings in the fourth quarter, 17-12, but that did little to erode Bellevue Christian’s insuperable lead. The Vikings won, 64-35.

"They're strong, but we've just gotta fix the small things and we'll be fine," said Moore.

Junior John Mercado regretted that the Rivals had their lowest scoring performance of the season in a "pivotal placement game. We shot ourselves in the foot, just missing easy shots, nothing more than that."

Both of EJ’s starting posts recorded double-doubles against Bellevue Christian. Dow scored 17 points, snagged 12 rebounds, and blocked seven shots. Guzman contributed 12 points, grabbed 11 rebounds, and dished four assists.

The Rivals were set to face Annie Wright, another Nisqually League powerhouse, on January 12, but that game got snowed out and postponed.

Whenever that game happens, it will pose a formidable challenge. Annie Wright (7-0) defeated Bellevue Christian last Tuesday, dropping the Vikings to 6-1. 

The East Jefferson Rivals, a combination of two small rural schools, Port Townsend and Chimacum, remain undaunted by the tough competition of the Nisqually League. 

The conference is composed largely of private schools that actively recruit scholarship athletes from across the state’s largest metropolitan area.

“We can definitely make it to state this year,” said Brown. “We really just need to keep a winning mindset.” 

Snow also postponed road games against South Whidbey and Kennedy Catholic, originally scheduled for Jan. 16 and 17, respectively. Rescheduling those contests will set up a late-season logjam of games that will test the conditioning of EJ and other Nisqually League teams.