In early January, Peninsula coach Matt Robles told me that people might think he’s a little crazy for saying his Seahawks team was improving every day.
After all, the team’s record at the time wasn’t pretty: the Seahawks were 0-6 in the Class 3A South Sound Conference.
But it turns out, Robles was on to something.
Since that point, Peninsula won five out the following six league games, improving its record to 5-7 in the SSC 3A and earning a spot in the playoffs in the process. Depending on how things shake out this week, the Seahawks could finish anywhere from third to sixth in the final league standings, a feat which seemed nearly impossible just a few weeks ago.
“It was nice for the boys to get a few wins, get some confidence,” Robles said. “They’ve done a great job. We haven’t changed much. We’ve just kept at it.”
Robles credits the turnaround to how the players have responded to the coaching and culture change, constantly working to improve in practice.
“Just the perseverance of the group of boys we’ve got,” Robles said. “They stuck with it. That’s all we asked. They believed, we got a win here, got a win there, got a little confidence. We haven’t changed too much. We got a little better defensively. They stuck with it; the boys have faced adversity head on. We’re in a decent spot. We’re in the playoffs. With where we were a few weeks ago, we’ll take it.”
Peninsula’s turnaround started with a 54-48 win over North Thurston on Jan 11. Then, the Seahawks shocked the league, beating second-place Timberline, 53-52 that Friday night. After dropping the next game to Capital, 50-48, the Seahawks kept it rolling, winning the next three over Yelm, Gig Harbor and Shelton.
A 54-42 win over crosstown rival Gig Harbor on Jan. 25 — avenging a loss earlier in the season — was particularly fun for the Seahawks squad.
“That was great,” Robles said. “The boys played hard, played together. They just executed. We did a good job controlling the game. We were up pretty big in the first quarter and held on to win.”
Peninsula has gotten contributions from several players along the way. Senior Cade McGill returned to action after missing the first half of the season, and has been an instant boost to the team. Juniors Elijah McLaughlin and Seth Kasteler have continued their breakout seasons. Kasteler scored 25 points against Yelm and McLaughlin scored 19 against Gig Harbor.
“They’ve been playing great,” Robles said. “We’ve got a good group and we’re scoring evenly. We have three guys almost averaging double figures. We’re sharing the ball and playing as a team. It’s a lot of fun.”
What Robles and his staff have preached to the players has remain unchanged.
“We’ve talked about the same message now as when we were 0-6,” Robles said. “They stuck with the process — credit to the boys. They believed in our culture, our x’s and o’s, and it’s starting to pay off. It we can keep sticking with it, I think good things will happen.”
And suddenly, Peninsula might be a team that could make some noise in the postseason.