If you haven't been to a Peninsula High School girls basketball game this season, you might want to go if you're a fan of tenacious defense.
With the exception of their lone loss, 56-29 to undefeated Central Kitsap, the Seahawks have been stellar at keeping opponents off the scoreboard. That was the case again Wednesday night, as they won convincingly over the Bremerton Knights, 54-31.
Peninsula is 4-1 thus far — already eclipsing the 3-17 record it posted last year — and coach Steve Jacobson is excited about the way his players are performing.
Along with a consistently strong defensive effort, Peninsula also performed well on offense for the most part. The Seahawks revamped their offense during the offseason, incorporating screen-and-cut techniques they learned from watching the Peninsula College men's team.
“It’s interesting, because in practice we throw the ball all over the place and lay the ball in and get wide-open shots, and we kind of tense up a little bit in games," Jacobson said. "So it was nice to see the off-ball cutting, the high-low action, and swinging the ball.
"A lot of what we wanted to get, it took five games to see that against zone (defense). The last game I was excited that (Franklin Pierce) zoned us … and tonight (Bremerton) stuck in the zone all night, and we were able to get some layups out of there, and some pretty easy shots. I think, offensively, we’re coming around.”
Here are photos from Wednesday's game and the game recap that will appear in the Gateway's Dec. 19 print issue. Peninsula visits Kingston at 7 p.m. Friday, and we'll have details of that game, too.
The early-season theme for the Peninsula High girls basketball team has centered on defense, and the Seahawks’ stinginess around their own basket could lead to more success over the final two months of the season.
In last Wednesday’s home game against Bremerton, the Seahawks were content to let Knights star Sawyer Kluge take the game on her shoulders. Kluge scored a game-high 19 points, but didn’t get much support, and the Seahawks walked away with a 54-31 victory in nonleague action.
With four wins in their first five games, the Seahawks have already surpassed their win total from the 2011-12 season. Defense is a big reason why, and coach Steve Jacobson didn’t deviate from the plan against Bremerton.
“That’s what’s winning us games,” said Peninsula senior Leigh Iosia. “Our defense is really solid, so he told us to keep doing what we’re doing.”
“That was another postgame compliment from the opposing coach, about how well we were playing defense,” Jacobson said. “I would agree. We are making things a little bit more difficult for the other team.”
The Seahawks went through a rough patch offensively in the third quarter, when they committed eight turnovers and missed eight straight free throws. For the rest of the game, however, they moved the ball effectively and got nearly everyone on the floor into dangerous scoring positions.
In the first period, Peninsula built a 16-5 lead as five different players scored. Iosia, who finished with a team-high 15 points, drilled a 3-pointer and scored on a fast-break layup to stretch her team’s lead to double digits.
Forward Rilee Zilkey was the star of the second quarter, scoring seven straight points in the paint. Four late points from forward Tyler Stolz gave Peninsula a 29-14 halftime lead.
Zilkey scored a season-high 12 points, reflecting the offensive contribution Jacobson is hoping to get from the junior every game.
“She did an excellent job of walking her girl up (the floor), and then getting position so that we could lob the ball underneath to her,” Jacobson said.
Peninsula’s bench had another solid outing, outscoring Bremerton’s 13-3. Senior guard Raequel Bitten was touted again for her energetic defense.
“She’s just like a little Speedy Gonzalez — she just goes after the ball and gets steals, steals, steals,” Iosia said. “She’s always full of energy.”
Bitten and Toni Helwig platooned against Kluge, a 5-foot-11 junior who was the Knights’ only consistent weapon. She got hot in the third quarter, scoring nine straight points, but had to work hard for most of her baskets.
“We just try to unleash Raequel and Toni on whoever,” Jacobson said. “(Kluge has) got some post size, but she plays guard, so we were able to put those two girls on her and ... that was a good advantage for us.”
Trailing 36-24 entering the fourth quarter, the Knights weren’t dead, but Peninsula was able to break full-court pressure easily and pull away. Iosia sank a 10-foot jumper, then drove to complete a 3-point play, pushing the Hawks’ lead to 47-26 with less than three minutes to play.
Peninsula opened Class 3A South Puget Sound League action Tuesday after press time at Bonney Lake, and returns home to face Decatur at 7 p.m. Thursday. Both opponents are ones Peninsula thinks it’s ready to get over the hump against.
“I’ve been nicknaming them ‘The Avengers,’ because we’ve been avenging some of those losses we were mad about last year,” Jacobson said. “Obviously, the personnel is different from last year, and the same with the other teams. But we know that we should’ve won more games last year.”