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 Jan. 29.
It was déj 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 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.”
Seahawks help special Olympics
The Peninsula High School boys basketball team and its boosters presented a check for $1,335 to the Gig Harbor branch of Special Olympics at halftime of the Seahawks’ game Jan. 29 against Auburn Mountainview.
Of the total amount raised, $600 will go toward the purchase of an iPad for special-needs students who have difficulty reading and need visual prompts.
The Peninsula basketball program raised the money during a golf tournament last September.Sports Editor Neil Pierson can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter, @gateway_neil.