Rebuilding projects don’t happen overnight for most high-school basketball programs, and many times, getting thumped on the court is part of the process.
The Peninsula Seahawks boys basketball team experienced that scenario Jan. 15 when it hosted the Lakes Lancers, a perennial Class 3A power.
The Lancers were dominant in every facet of the game. They rolled to a 74-46 victory and highlighted the difference between two programs that have one main similarity: Both are under the guidance of first-year head coaches.
While Lakes’ starting lineup included five seniors, Peninsula had two freshmen and a sophomore. The Seahawks’ inexperienced lineup was overwhelmed by the Lancers’ full-court pressure, and it showed on the stat sheet: Lakes won the turnover battle 25-17, shot 25 more free throws and got a commanding 25-point effort from 6-foot-4 forward Jordan Johnson.
The result may have been frustrating for Peninsula’s players and fans, but coach Jake Jackson kept his postgame message positive.
“The good news this season, whether it’s 10 feet forward or 3 centimeters forward, we’re still going forward,” Jackson said. “These guys, they battled to the buzzer. They don’t give up, they don’t throw in the towel, they stay together. They compete, and that’s all you can ask for as a coach.”
Jackson also was quick to credit the Lancers for playing outstanding basketball.
“The better team won tonight — they’re highly skilled and highly athletic,” he said. “They executed their transition offense extremely well, got quick buckets. They came back up in their full-court defense and just got tons of steals.”
Lakes coach Nick Jensen, is in his first season with the Lancers after 11 years as an assistant at Bellarmine Prep, inherited a lot of talent and is making good use of it.
At 10-5 overall, 5-1 in the South Puget Sound League, Lakes is in a good position to compete for its fifth state trophy in the past seven seasons.
Jensen said it was exciting to see his team set the tone with a strong defensive effort.
“They were all over the floor, helping each other out,” he said, “being there when a guy got caught, talking and communicating, just really giving it everything they had, which is what we’ve been preaching.”
Lakes forced 10 turnovers in the opening quarter, built a 22-10 lead and never looked back.
Johnson scored 15 points in the first half and had two dunks in the game, including an alley-oop finish on the first play of the third quarter.
“He’s kind of a do-everything kid,” Jensen said. “He plays inside, he plays outside. He’s really turned the corner as a leader on this team, and it’s starting to pay dividends for him in the box score.”
Freshman point guard JaQuori McLaughlin, Peninsula’s leading scorer, struggled to find any sort of rhythm. He spent much of the game on the bench and finished with four points to match his four fouls.
Jensen said the Lancers knew about McLaughlin’s abilities and had a specific plan to slow him down.
“He’s a good player,” Jensen said. “We just wanted to be physical with him, because he is young, and make sure that we always had a hand on him to ... make him earn every bucket.”
Lakes had strong guard play to complement Johnson’s inside game. Starter Taron Rogers scored all nine of his points in the first half, and Tim Boulding came off the bench to score 14.
Patrick Hennessey led Peninsula (2-13, 0-5) with 11 points. Austin Filkins added nine, while Cody Olson and Garrett Smith each had eight.
The Lancers’ physicality paid dividends as they finished 22-for-36 at the foul line, while Peninsula was only 7-of-11.
Despite a 28-point loss, Jackson said his team hasn’t lost hope and figures to keep playing hard. There’s tangible evidence of the program’s improvement: Peninsula’s JV team defeated Lakes by a point on Garrett Kingman’s last-second 3-pointer.
Many of the freshmen and sophomores on that squad will be varsity players next season, and that could put the Hawks on more level ground with a team like Lakes, which will lose much of its talent to graduation.
“The future is bright; it’s just going to take time,” Jackson said. “The good news is, it’s a good group of guys, and they still believe, so there’s nothing really more you can ask for.”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.