Capital boys cap perfect season in style

bmurphy@idahostatesman.com © 2014 Idaho StatesmanFebruary 14, 2014 

The Capital High boys basketball team made a dream come true Thursday night.

Erik Weiser, an exchange student from Germany and the team’s manager, suited up for the first time and scored three fourth-quarter points in a 69-49 victory over Eagle.

Before the game, Weiser was told he could warm up with the team and sit on the bench with a jersey. “That was good enough for me,” the senior said.

But with Capital cruising toward its 20th consecutive victory and a perfect regular season, Weiser’s night got even better. He played the final 100 seconds, scoring three points, grabbing one rebound and earning plenty of cheers.

“A dream come true. One of my main points to come to the U.S. as an exchange student was to play basketball, and it’s happened now,” he said.

Said junior guard Derrick White, who led Capital with 13 points: “That was one special moment. I’ll remember that for a long time.”

This Capital team could be a few weeks away from being remembered for a long time as well. Players, however, swore an unblemished regular season was never a goal.

“We haven’t thought about it all season, to be honest,” said junior Tarik Littlejohn, who had eight points.

Capital trailed Eagle 12-4 in the first quarter, but its swarming defense turned the tide quickly. Capital scored the final eight points of the quarter and took the lead for good late in the second on two free throws by senior guard Hunter Young (nine points, four assists, three steals).

Capital had 13 steals and forced 20 Eagle turnovers.

“To beat Capital, you have to be mentally tough, very mentally tough,” Eagle coach Tom Seifert said. “They’re a good team and they will come after you and come after you and come after you and you better be ready for it.”

Eagle (7-12) hung tough into the fourth quarter, pulling within 44-40 on a 3-pointer by Sheldon Eilers. But Capital, which played 13 players, including Weiser, took over in the final minutes. Capital outscored Eagle 25-12 in the fourth quarter, including a decisive 18-2 run after Eilers’ 3.

“That’s happened a lot,” Capital coach Paul Rush said. “We almost always finish the fourth quarter on some serious runs.”

The aggressive defense and deep athletic roster have held all opponents at bay so far. But all those victories mean little in the chase for a state title.

“It adds a little bit more pressure getting into the playoffs. There’s obviously more at stake and more at risk. We just want to play our hardest and that will let us win our game,” White said. “We want to be the best team in Idaho.”

Capital must still navigate the 5A District Three Tournament to earn a spot in the eight-team state tournament next month, and realize White’s goal.

“That next game means a heck of a lot more than the last 20,” Rush said. “We need to go take care of business.”

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