EJ boys win overtime hoops thriller

Posted 1/10/24


The East Jefferson Rivals boys’ basketball team roared back from a 28-point deficit to force overtime and defeat Charles Wright in Tacoma last Wednesday.

East Jefferson started …

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EJ boys win overtime hoops thriller



The East Jefferson Rivals boys’ basketball team roared back from a 28-point deficit to force overtime and defeat Charles Wright in Tacoma last Wednesday.

East Jefferson started slow in their first game after a two-week winter break, and fell far behind the highly motivated Tarriers in the first half.

Early in the third quarter “something just clicked,” said junior point guard Traycen Brown. “We had a fire lit under our butts a little bit. We realized these games would be crucial for postseason contention.”

EJ lit up the scoreboard for the rest of the second half, but still trailed 59-62 with five seconds remaining in regulation. As those seconds ticked away, junior swingman Keidan Guzman’s clutch three-pointer tied the game, 62-62, and prompted deafening screams from Rivals fans who came out in force for the road game.

Fueled by those cheers, EJ dominated overtime to seal a 75-70 victory.

The 6-foot-7 Guzman led the Rivals in scoring with 31 points, a season high for him. Junior point guard Brody Moore chipped in another 16 points. EJ Assistant Coach Chris Harris praised his athletes for making “big-time plays” to pull out the win.

“The boys fought, but we shouldn't have been down in the first place and they know that,” Harris said.

The win raised the Rivals to a 3-2 conference record (4-3 overall), good enough for fifth place in the nine-team Nisqually League.

EJ opened the season on Dec. 1 by beating the Eagles in Klahowya, 62-52. Guzman led the team in scoring with 18 points and grabbed eight defensive rebounds. Moore added another 12 points, and 6-foot-8 junior post Stuart Dow blocked nine shots.

On Dec. 7, Cascade Christian beat the Rivals in Chimacum, 63-39. Two days later, EJ put up a good fight in a non-conference road game in Tenino. Guzman again led in scoring with 18 points. Dow scored 15, snagged 15 rebounds, and blocked five shots. Moore contributed another 12 points, but the Beavers beat the Rivals, 65-60.

On Dec. 12, EJ began a three-game home stand in Port Townsend by defeating Seattle Christian, 74-66. Moore scored a team-leading 29 points, followed by Brown with 20. Dow added another 10 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and blocked eight shots.

Two days later, the Rivals hosted a non-conference game against North Beach Christian, a private school from Australia. EJ dominated, 86-47. Senior Cash Holmes scored a team-leading 23 points and nabbed nine rebounds. Dow scored 15, seized 10 rebounds, and blocked three shots. Guzman scored just seven points, but snagged 10 rebounds and dished five assists. Senior Garrett Fordham scored six and led the Rivals in rebounds with 14.

The next night, Dec. 15, Life Christian beat EJ, 88-61. Dow led the Rivals in points (15), rebounds (14), and blocks (six). Moore scored 14 points, Brown another 12, and Guzman put up 11, grabbed seven rebounds, and had four assists.

Led by Coach Emmanuel Abbott, the Rivals appear poised to improve on last year’s 9-11 record. In his third year as coach, Abbott’s roster is loaded with experienced upperclassmen well-versed in his schemes, and further strengthened by newcomers such as Ethan Riker, a sophomore from Spokane, and junior John Mercado from Guam.

Having won three of their last four games, the Rivals look forward to the rest of the season. Senior Aidan Stepanski said, “Our team chemistry is getting good this year, and I think we have something to prove.”