The holidays are officially behind us, and Wednesday night is the start of another slate of winter sports action throughout the South Sound.
Here's a look at what games you can find me at this week and what our Jan. 9 print issue will look like:
- 7 p.m. Wednesday: Boys basketball, Peninsula at Washington
- 7 p.m. Thursday: Wrestling, Enumclaw at Peninsula
- 7 p.m. Friday: Girls basketball, Yelm at Gig Harbor
In prep basketball, nonleague action is just about over, so Gig Harbor and Peninsula teams will have their games truly start to count from here on out.
Of the four hoops teams at the two schools, only the Peninsula girls sport a winning record with 10 games down and 10 to go. The Seahawks, under the direction of second-year coach Steve Jacobson, polished off a 7-3 start Friday night at North Kitsap. They'll host Klahowya at 7 p.m. Friday, and their eighth win of the year would match the program's win total from the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons combined.
Peninsula needs to play its very best against SPSL 3A competition to qualify for the postseason. With the exception of winless Decatur, the league is fairly skilled and anyone can beat anyone on any given night. Against North Kitsap, Peninsula showed it is finding some offensive cohesion. When the Hawks move the ball well, guards Leigh Iosia and Toni Helwig, and posts Rilee Zilkey and Tyler Stolz, are all scoring threats.
Perhaps a big key the rest of the way is how the team responds to the loss of Raequel Bitten, who provided a spark as the first player off the bench. She's one of Peninsula's better defenders. I haven't heard whether she'll return this season, and she was spotted on crutches at a recent game.
Friday, I'm taking a look at the Gig Harbor girls, who seem to be inching toward improvement. The Tides won two of their three games last week at the Clark Cochrane Christmas Classic tournament in Ketchikan, Alaska. Gig Harbor hadn't won up until that point, and three of its losses probably should've been wins, coach Bob Boback indicated.
Gig Harbor led by 13 against Curtis in the season opener, but lost that lead, then lost by two points against Olympic, a game in which it committed a whole bunch of self-defeating mistakes. The capper was the Dec. 22 overtime loss to Peninsula in which the Tides led by five in the final two minutes but couldn't hold on.
Gig Harbor has relied a lot on senior guard Taylor Talen thus far, and freshmen guards Tessa Waage and McKenzie Alton have played well despite their inexperience. but the Tides will need more production from Naphtali Ward and Morgen Wallerich if they're going to have a chance at the playoffs.
Gig Harbor's boys, meanwhile, also won twice at the Alaska tournament to improve to 3-7 overall. It's tough to gauge how good the 4A Narrows League is thus far - preseason favorite Bellarmine Prep has struggled, but mostly against top-notch competition. Central Kitsap has looked great, but hasn't played as quality of a schedule. South Kitsap and Stadium have shown flashes of greatness. But the only team that has really solidified its status is Olympia (7-0, 2-0).
I'm expecting the Tides to be competitive the rest of the way, but they'll need to be right at the top of their abilities to reach the playoffs. Jared Anderson, Jared Murphy, Travis Hopkins and Carson Gearhart can't have off-nights.
Peninsula's boys have eight league games left, and a chance to sneak into the postseason if they keep progressing. Freshman point guard JaQuori McLaughlin is no longer under the radar after his 28-point explosion against Gig Harbor, but he can't bail the team out of every situation. It'll be up to Cody Olson, Patrick Hennessey and Nolan Winter to step up their games.
Injuries haven't helped - O'Shea McLaughlin and Austin Filkins continue to sit the bench - and heralded freshman Eric Wattree won't get to play varsity ball this year after his transfer failed to go through.
In the other two winter sports - boys swimming and wrestling - there has been plenty to celebrate locally.
Gig Harbor's swimmers have been the standout of that bunch, as Erik Nielsen, Evan Indahl, Jackson Curtis and Daniel Arroyo have recorded some great times. Later this month, we'll see how the Tides do against defending state champion Stadium, but regardless of the result, the Tides are going to be in prime position to clinch at least a top-10 position at state come February.
Peninsula's wrestlers have also impressed me at times, and their match-up this week against defending state champion Enumclaw should be fun. The Seahawks proved they could compete against a top team when they lost by five to Decatur, despite forfeiting three weight classes. Peninsula has three studs in Casey Larson, Randy Nimrick and Jake Ricco, but it'll be the guys right below them in terms of talent — Luke Holsinger, Tommy Foreman and Ryan Valley — who'll determine where this team finishes at Mat Classic in February.