In two games last week, the Gig Harbor Tides girls basketball team played very well in the first half.
It was the second half that cost them.
Gig Harbor rallied after Bellarmine Prep scored the first eight points on Friday, and the Tides took a one-point lead into the half. But the Lions dominated after that, using a swarming defense and size under the basket to outscore Gig Harbor by 20 points for a 61-42 win in Class 4A Narrows League play at Gig Harbor’s John Gorow Gymnasium.
The loss hurt the Tides’ playoff hopes. Last Wednesday, they sustained a bigger blow when they scored only seven points in the second half at South Kitsap, and the sixth-place Wolves erased a halftime deficit for a 47-32 triumph.
Early on against first-place Bellarmine, it appeared the Tides were carrying a hangover from that game. The Lions collected four quick turnovers and built an 8-0 lead.
But nearly as quickly as they dug the hole, the Tides scrambled out of it. Their defensive intensity was a huge factor in the first half, as they got into several fast-break situations and put the Lions in foul trouble.
Gig Harbor’s deficit shrank to three points after the first quarter, and a fadeway jump shot from Katy Larson as the shot clock expired helped the Tides forge an improbable 25-24 lead at the break.
Larson, who finished with 10 points, said the Tides were confident going into the final 16 minutes.
“I thought we’d be able to pull through, but it got tough in the second half,” she said.
Bellarmine switched to a zone defense to start the third period, and they forced several turnovers by trapping the Tides in the corners and double-teaming their posts.
The strategy was effective against Taylor Talen, Gig Harbor’s leading scorer, who managed only four points on the night.
But Larson, a sophomore wing, and McKenzie Alton, a freshman guard, nearly picked up the slack. Alton poured in a career-high 20 points, slashing to the basket for layups or drawing fouls and scoring at the free-throw line.
“Kenzie played awesome — she inspired me to work so much harder, and I’m really proud of her,” Larson said.
Both teams took advantage of a physical, tightly officiated game. They combined for 79 free-throw attempts, with the Lions making 22 of 37 and the Tides sinking 26 of 42.
“We wanted to drive on them a lot to get us to the foul line,” Larson said. “We worked really hard, I thought.”
Foul trouble hampered the Tides as Larson went to the bench with her fourth late in the third period, and Talen fouled out in the final minute of play.
Bellarmine extended its lead to nine at the end of three quarters, and the Lions continued to punish the Tides down low the rest of the way. Bellarmine made 16 foul shots in the second half.
The Lions’ offensive attack was balanced, too, as five players scored at least eight points. Senior forward Ionna Price led the way with 13, and senior guard Sydney Swofford added 12.
The game was closer than the final score indicated, and Larson said the Tides were ready for the Lions after Wednesday’s loss to South Kitsap was put on the shelf.
“We came together as a team (Thursday) night, and we really connected,” she said. “Going into (the Bellarmine) game, we were so confident, and we wanted to win.”
The Tides pulled out a huge road win Monday, beating the Central Kitsap Cougars 64-62. That, coupled with Bellarmine’s win at Olympia, gave Gig Harbor a half-game edge over Olympia for the Narrows League’s fourth and final playoff spot.
Olympia must win at Central Kitsap tonight to force a tiebreaker game, which likely will be played Friday at an undetermined neutral court.
Larson scored 17 to lead four Tides players in double figures against CK.