After the Gig Harbor High girls basketball team started the season on a seven-game losing streak, it would’ve been easy for Tides coach Bob Boback to push the panic button.
He didn’t do it, and the Tides have started to produce results.
Gig Harbor started slowly in last Wednesday’s game against South Kitsap, but it took control with its ball-hawking defense and held on for a 45-39 victory in Class 4A Narrows League action at Gig Harbor’s John Gorrow Gymnasium.
The victory was the Tides’ sixth in seven games and evened their league mark at 3-3, putting them squarely into the playoff picture. The top four teams from the league will qualify for February’s West Central/Southwest bi-district tournament.
“We were just so amped that we won, because it’s our goal to make it to districts, and, right now, we’re on our way to districts,” Gig Harbor senior Taylor Talen said.
It also was Gig Harbor’s first victory over South Kitsap since Feb. 3, 2009, when this year’s seniors were eighth-graders.
It has a deeper meaning for this season, though.
“Now we’re 3-3, so that’s a really great thing,” senior post Sammi Markham said. “We have a chance at the playoffs. It’s just a really exciting time for us.”
The Tides looked a step slow in the first period, and the Wolves (4-9, 1-5) made them pay. Hayley O’Dell scored six of her nine points, and South Kitsap collected 10 turnovers to build a 17-9 cushion.
That’s when Boback changed strategies. He put the Tides into a full-court press, and the results were immediately effective. Gig Harbor forced 11 turnovers in the second quarter and outscored South Kitsap 15-4 to take a three-point halftime lead.
“I think the press just really turned on our intensity,” Markham said. “We really wanted to fight for it. I think that’s the biggest thing, that we need to have that fight in us.”
“We kind of came out slow, so coach put us in a press, which just helped us pick up our energy,” Talen added. “And we thought putting pressure on the ball would make them nervous, which it did. It gave us a lot of turnovers and a lot of points that we scored off of it.”
Talen finished with a game-high 18 points, many of them coming on easy fast-break layups. Katy Larson, who added nine points, scored on a putback with three minutes go to in the first half, and the Tides never trailed again.
Markham grabbed rebounds and scored baskets on a pair of third-quarter possessions, and another Larson bucket gave Gig Harbor its biggest lead of the night, 36-25.
The Wolves, who forced 27 turnovers in the game, didn’t go away. They trimmed the deficit to four points on multiple occasions, the last time with a minute to play when Gabrielle Stewart drilled a 3-pointer.
The Tides were strong with the ball when they needed to be, committing only two turnovers in the fourth period. Talen’s two free throws with 26.5 seconds left were the clinching plays.
The game was like many the Tides have played this season — start slow, finish fast.
“We kind of have to work on that, starting out strong,” Markham said. “But we did good in the end.”
The young lineup that started the season together has coalesced. Talen, in her first season at Gig Harbor after she transferred from Class 2B Tacoma Baptist, is the go-to girl when the Tides need a big basket, but she’s having to create own her shots on fewer occasions as the season moves along.
“I think we’re all just starting to click and see where we go,” Talen said. “Coach knows how we play now, and he’s just trying to work me into the plays, so that’s cool.”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.