POULSBO — The Peninsula Seahawks had one of their best offensive efforts of the season in the first half of Friday’s nonleague girls basketball game.
And when the baskets began to dry up in the second half, Peninsula turned to its trusted defensive plan to sew up a victory over the North Kitsap Vikings.
Peninsula forced 16 turnovers in the second half and held off North Kitsap’s fourth-quarter surge to win, 53-47. The Seahawks improved their overall record to 7-3 and are one win away from matching the program’s combined win total from the past two seasons.
“I love winning,” said forward Tyler Stolz, a four-year varsity player who paced the Seahawks with 16 points. “To actually be winning, it’s just fantastic.”
Peninsula built a 32-22 halftime lead behind its offensive attack, which featured the hot perimeter shooting of Leigh Iosia and the post-up skills of Stolz and Rilee Zilkey.
North Kitsap used full-court pressure to work its way back into the game and forced 11 turnovers of its own in the second half. The Vikings got within one late in the fourth period, but the Seahawks closed the game on an 8-3 run.
Peninsula was forced to adjust to the officiating as the Vikings collected steals on several plays that could’ve been called fouls.
“The difficult part is the reaching in,” Seahawks coach Steve Jacobson said. “It turns into a jump ball, so basically they’re encouraging reaching in. ... We just need to do a better job of pivoting away from that pressure so that there is no jump ball.”
“I was always taught to play better than the officials, to play through them,” Stolz said, “and we did really well tonight.”
Stolz hit two free throws with 24.8 seconds left to push Peninsula’s lead to 51-47, and Zilkey sank two more with six seconds to play that cemented the result.
In the first half, Iosia drilled three 3-pointers. She also fed Maddie Stelle for a fast-break layup on the final play of the half and finished with 14 points.
When Iosia is hitting her shots, it typically opens things up for her teammates.
“It also makes me tell her to shoot more,” Jacobson quipped. “Not that I ever tell her not to shoot, but when she makes her first couple shots, it’s, ‘You need to shoot.’”
The Seahawks had seven players score in the first half, the result of strong ball movement. Most of their points came inside the paint.
“I think we’re getting more comfortable against zone defenses,” Jacobson said. “It makes it really difficult, because we have a couple of kids who can shoot from the outside, too, so (opponents have) got to pick whether they’re going to give up layups or wide-open threes.”
Peninsula led 43-34 entering the final quarter, but the Vikings slowly chipped away. Rebekah Baugh, the Vikings’ star sophomore, led all scorers with 21 points, including six 3-pointers.
However, the Seahawks got defensive stops at opportune times.
“We’re really quick, and so we tend to get and see things that other teams might not see,” Stolz said.Sports Editor Neil Pierson can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_neil.