Mekhi Speller-Hale scored a team-high 21 points, Dahntay Tillman added 17 and the South Puget Sound Community College (SPSCC) defeated visiting Whatcom College, 97-93, in the Clippers’ home opener at the Health & Wellness Center on November 21.
“It was a very emotional experience. I started to tear up with about two minutes left in the game. I was just happy for the guys because they’ve been battling and my staff, they’ve been working hard,” said SPSCC Head Coach Jon Willis, who picked up his first career victory with the win. “This is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a junior in high school. For me to get my first win as a head coach, it was joyful. I am thankful to all those who have come before me to pave the way.”
The Clippers (1-2) also received strong offensive performances off the bench from freshmen Justin Hicks, a 2021 Black Hills High School graduate, and Hayden Wakefield, who scored 13 and 11 points, respectively.
SPSCC shot 51.8% (29 for 56) from the field while making 34 of 45 free throws (75.6%). The Clippers also held a 50-35 rebounding edge, getting 9 boards from Tillman, 8 from Speller-Hale and 6 from Jason Montes.
Fueled by Speller-Hale’s 11 first-half points, South Puget Sound Community College held a 45-41 lead at the intermission. Tillman paced the Clippers’ offense in the second half, scoring 15 points. Trailing 85-84 with 4 minutes to play, SPSCC reclaimed the lead for good on a Tillman dunk before an Ethan Dillon 3-pointer gave the Clippers’ a 5-point advantage.
SPSCC, which turned 10 Whatcom turnovers into 27 points, also received seven points from Dillon, a Tumwater High School graduate, and 6 points from both Montes and Quentin Hassell as the Clippers’ bench outscored the Orcas, 46-25.
“It was fun and exciting. We had a lot of dunks, we had some 3s,” Willis said. “I think we put on a good show for the fans. We blocked shots, we contested shots. We had a good time.”
The game marked the third consecutive 20-point outing for Speller-Hale, a 6-foot-8 sophomore from Brooklyn, New York. The forward scored 23 points and pulled down 8 rebounds in South Puget Sound Community College’s 82-71 season-opening loss to Bellevue College on November 19 at Tacoma Community College. He also scored a game-high 23 points and added 11 rebounds in the Clippers’ 90-76 setback to Lane on November 20.
Speller-Hale ranks seventh in scoring in the Northwest Athletic Conference, averaging 22.3 points per game. He also is seventh in rebounding in the NWAC at nine rebounds a contest.