The regular season is over, or nearly over, for many high-school basketball teams, and in the case of the Gig Harbor Tides and Peninsula Seahawks, there's nothing left to play for.
The Tides won't be playing in the postseason for the first time in four seasons, and the Seahawks won't be there for the first time since their 2008 run to the state tournament.
However, in spite of those disappointments, there are positives for both teams to hang their hats on. I saw both teams in action this week — Peninsula in its Senior Night game versus Auburn Mountainview, and Gig Harbor in its second-to-last home game versus South Kitsap — and it's obvious that neither program is mailing it in.
On Tuesday, Peninsula gave a strong Auburn Mountainview team everything it could handle before falling, 49-48. On Thursday, the Lions lost in overtime to Decatur, which was a boon to Lakes, who survived a strong Peninsula challenge to win 58-54 and move into a first-place tie in the Class 3A South Puget Sound League. Enumclaw can forge a three-way tie for first by beating Bonney Lake Friday.
The Seahawks finished their season 4-16 overall, 2-8 in league, but it's obvious coach Jake Jackson improving the program. Look out for the Hawks next year when point guard JaQuori McLaughlin is a little stronger and more experienced, and JV standouts Eric Wattree and Austin Kingman move into the lineup.
As for the Tides, the season hasn't gone according to plan, and with games against Bellarmine Prep and Central Kitsap left on the slate, the team is only playing for pride.
They'll lose some talent to graduation — most notably shooting guard Carson Gearhart and forward Jared Anderson — but there's a foundation for a better record in 2013-14. Against South Kitsap on Wednesday, I was impressed by the play of junior guard Ryan Rychard, who has missed most of the season with a knee injury.
Here are some photos from the Auburn Mountainview-Peninsula game and the South Kitsap-Gig Harbor game. Below are the game stories that'll appear in the Gateway's Feb. 6 print issue.
Auburn Mountainview 49, Peninsula 48
It was almost a very happy 15th birthday for Peninsula High basketball player JaQuori McLaughlin.
Trailing by four points in the closing seconds, McLaughlin drained a 3-pointer from the wing to pull Peninsula within a point of visiting Auburn Mountainview.
But high-school rules don’t call for the clock to stop after late-game baskets, and with the Seahawks out of timeouts, the Lions didn’t have to inbound the ball in order to escape with a 49-48 victory in Class 3A South Puget Sound League action on Tuesday.
It was déjà vu for the Seahawks, who lost a December game to crosstown rival Gig Harbor under the exact same circumstances.
McLaughlin, who scored a game-high 15 points against Auburn Mountainview, said the Seahawks never gave up against the league-leading Lions despite being down by double digits early in the second half.
“We just wanted to keep playing hard and stay in the game, because we knew we could win, but we just had to keep battling,” he said.
Peninsula’s Austin Filkins scored on a pair of layups to tie the game with two minutes to play. Auburn Mountainview’s Keith Green then hit a free throw, and, following a turnover, teammate Domenic Rockey swished a jumper for a 48-45 Lions lead.
With 13.3 seconds left, Green again split a pair of foul shots. In the ensuing timeout, Peninsula senior James Silberman said, the Seahawks drew up a play designed for a quick score, but it wasn’t effective because the Lions didn’t pressure the inbound pass.
“JaQuori got off a good shot and, unfortunately, the clock doesn’t stop,” Silberman said.
Although the Seahawks (4-16 overall, 2-8 league) won’t be going to the playoffs, their season will end on a brighter note. After they won only one SPSL 3A contest in the previous three seasons, they beat Bonney Lake and Decatur in January.
They also played co-league-champion Auburn Mountainview (12-8, 7-3) tough twice. In the first meeting between the teams on Jan. 11, the Lions had a one-point lead entering the fourth period before they won by eight.
“It was a great game; we played hard,” said Silberman, who scored six points. “They may have been a little bigger than us, but we fought harder than them, and we were right with them.”
Green and Rockey, both of whom scored 13 points to pace the Lions, led an offensive attack centered around jump shots. The Seahawks weren’t surprised by the game plan, but they had to adjust after they were burned repeatedly in the first half.
“We knew that they could shoot well, so we tried to close out well,” McLaughlin said. “They had a pretty high shooting percentage, and they’re a good rebounding team, so we tried to get them in those areas.”
The Seahawks held the Lions to 19 points in the second half, and they slowly chipped away at the deficit.
Using full-court pressure, the Hawks forced a few turnovers, and Silberman’s breakaway layup trimmed the Lions’ lead to four. Nolan Winter’s only basket of the game cut the margin to 40-38 with five minutes left.
Peninsula honored its six seniors beforehand, and although they didn’t win their final game at the Hawks Nest, it was a memorable night for Silberman, Filkins, Cody Olson, Patrick Hennessey, Max Reyes and Justin Erickson.
Silberman, a varsity player since the middle of his sophomore year, believes the program has made great strides.
“From my freshman year to now, we’re so much better than we were,” he said. “I think every year has been a little bit better.”
South Kitsap 57, Gig Harbor 48
The South Kitsap Wolves may be establishing themselves as serious contenders in the upcoming West Central District boys basketball tournament.
The Gig Harbor Tides witnessed South Kitsap’s prowess twice this season, and they fell victim to the Wolves’ quick and cohesive lineup on Wednesday.
Point guard Ryley Callaghan led all scorers with 21 points, and the Wolves responded to every punch the Tides threw at them to claim a 57-48 victory in Class 4A Narrows League action at Gig Harbor’s John Gorrow Gymnasium.
For the Tides, it was an improvement from the 67-47 defeat the Wolves handed them Jan. 16 in Port Orchard, but it also was another black mark on a disappointing season. At 5-13 overall, 2-8 in league, the Tides will miss the postseason for the first time since 2009.
Gig Harbor assistant coach John Medak indicated the Wolves’ strong play had more to do with the result than anything the Tides did poorly.
“(Coach) John (Callaghan) does a nice job with his kids,” Medak said. “He’s got three or four kids that can score off the bounce, and a couple of those kids are really good 3-point shoots, so it’s almost like, choose your poison.”
Gig Harbor and South Kitsap traded blows in the first half. The Tides’ Carson Gearhart, Kody Davis and Ryan Rychard sank 3-pointers, but Ryley Callaghan, Devon Newquist and Calvin Bakalarki answered with their own their own bombs for South Kitsap (12-5, 7-2).
The Wolves took a 29-25 lead to the half, and they gradually increased the margin from there. They got some help as Jared Anderson, the Tides’ 6-foot-7 forward, sat on the bench after he picked up his fourth foul midway through the third period.
Anderson’s impact on the game was minimal. He finished with six points, and his absence allowed the Wolves to drive to the basket on several occasions.
“I got stubborn,” Medak said. “I left him in, and I shouldn’t have. That’s on me.”
Two Forest Bingham free throws gave the Wolves a 10-point advantage late in the third, but the Tides weren’t done.
Rychard, who finished with a career-high 13 points, scored two quick buckets in the fourth. Travis Hopkins made two key plays, drawing a charge and then driving the lane for a basket that narrowed the Tides’ deficit to 49-46.
The Wolves had the final answer. They scored the next eight points, and, after they pushed the lead back to double digits, they forced a few turnovers and ran down the clock on every possession.
Bakalarski scored 11 of his 13 points in the first half, and Newquist picked up the slack with eight of his 13 in the second half.
But it was Ryley Callaghan who stole the show for the Wolves, hitting tough shots all over the floor.
“We didn’t help with him too much,” Medak said. “We wanted to actually make him do more off the dribble, but that wasn’t a great plan, as it turned out.”
Gearhart had one of his best performances of the season for the Tides, scoring 20 points. Medak felt the senior did a nice job of teaming with point guard Chad Glover to create chances, but the Tides missed too many layups and short jumpers.
“He sees the floor well, and he has good instincts,” Medak said of Gearhart. “When Carson has the ball in his hands, he has the ability to get it off his hands to people where they can do something with it.”
Rychard also earned praise. The junior has been out for most of the season with a knee injury, but he returned in the last two weeks to provide a spark.
“I thought he did a nice job of giving us a lift off the bench with his scoring,” Medak said, “and I think he’s also going to be a very good defender.”