The best way to head into the playoffs: How about by ruining the opponent’s perfect season?
Peninsula earned its biggest win of the year on Friday night against previously undefeated North Thurston, 56-48, spoiling the Rams’ hope for a flawless regular season.
North Thurston came in with a 19-0 overall record and a 13-0 record in the Class 3A South Sound Conference. That all changed in Purdy on Friday night.
Peninsula rode senior forward Seth Kasteler’s 27 points and spoiled the party.
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“We knew they were undefeated,” said Peninsula senior guard Sam Miller. “But we knew we played them tough the first time, too. We felt like we gave it away the first time we played them and we wanted to get it back. Tonight was a little bit of revenge.”
The game had no effect on playoff seeding. North Thurston had already wrapped up the league title and the No. 1 seed. Peninsula is the league’s No. 4 seed. But there was plenty of pride on the line.
“We talked about how we had nothing to lose and they had everything to lose,” Kasteler said. “They had the perfect season. It’s super big going into playoffs. We have momentum now.”
Kasteler set the tone for the game midway through the first quarter. Miller’s 3-point attempt bounced off the rim and Kasteler went up, grabbed the ball and slammed it home for a putback dunk that sent the student section into a frenzy.
“That got us riled up,” Kasteler said. “We felt good and just kept shooting.”
Peninsula coach Matt Robles said it was a special play.
“That was an amazing dunk,” Robles said. “That was really cool for him.”
Peninsula led 15-5 after the first quarter, but North Thurston came storming back, scoring 25 points in the second quarter and taking a 30-28 lead into the locker room. But Peninsula didn’t waver and kept the game close, trailing 42-39 at the end of the third quarter.
“We knew they weren’t going to score 25 consistently on us,” Miller said. “We’re too good defensively for that to happen again. We just knew we had to come out and get our lead back and we did. After that, it was history.”
Seth Kasteler scored nine points in the final four minutes of the game, willing his team to victory. The dagger came with just under a minute to play, when Kasteler buried a 3-pointer for the Seahawks to push the lead to 53-45.
“(Kasteler) just made the right plays at the right times, he passed the ball at the right times, and then when they kind of matched him up 1 vs. 1, he took advantage,” Robles said. “The last three was huge.”
North Thurston was paced by Jeremy Spencer’s 19 points, nine of which came from the free-throw line. Clayton Christian added 17, while Garrett Wallace chipped in 10.
Peninsula has six seniors on its roster. Robles started all six, accepting the technical foul for having six players on the court.
“With the six seniors that I have, I couldn’t sit one of them,” he said.
Spencer nailed two free throws after the technical foul, putting the Rams up 2-0 before a second had even ticked off the clock.
“I told the boys, if we lose, it’s on me,” Robles said. “I apologize, but I couldn’t sit any of those guys. I told them we were going to find a way to win.”
In the end, the game didn’t count for much. But hopefully for Peninsula, it’s a sign that they’re peaking at the right time.
“They were one of the top-ranked teams in the state, so it gives us a lot of confidence heading into the playoffs.”
Peninsula has been in plenty of games this year, but has struggled to close them out against the league’s top teams. Not this time.
“Every game has been tough,” Robles said. “We’re trying to find a way to win, refusing to lose and the boys did a great job. They’re tough. The guys are tough, the seniors are tough. Everyone we have on our team is tough. They kept their composure. We talk about composure and poise. Refuse to lose, will to win. All the stuff that you hope your team buys into, but this team really has. It’s so cool to see.”
North Thurston: Spencer 19, Christian 17, Wallace 10, Stone 2
Peninsula: Kasteler 27, McLaughlin 8, Lichau 7, Spurlock 4, Baker 4, Miller 4, Jackson 2.