The Peninsula High School boys basketball team jumped out to a big lead against Central Kitsap on Saturday evening and never looked back, beating the Cougars 59-46 to stay alive in the Class 3A West Central District III/Southwest bi-district tournament.
Peninsula led 14-8 after the first quarter and at one point in the second quarter, jumped out to a 20-8 lead, thanks to hot shooting from senior guard Sam Miller, who drained three 3-pointers in the first half and finished the game with a team-high 17 points.
“I just didn’t want this to be the last one,” Miller said. “I was just going to put everything I had out there on the floor, whether it was passing, rebounding, scoring, whatever the team needed me to do. I think we got off to a good start, relaxed a little bit and then we came out the second half and did pretty well.”
It was a loser-out game. Miller didn’t want his high school career to end just yet.
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“Basketball has been a big part of my life forever, since I was little,” Miller said. “I love the game and I just wanted to go out and play it the way I know I can play it. It was really fun.”
Peninsula got a bit stagnant in the final five minutes of the second quarter, as Central Kitsap clawed back into the game and was down 22-19 at half. But Peninsula responded after halftime, outscoring the Cougars 17-11 in the third quarter.
“We took a big lead and then kind of got complacent in the first and second quarters,” Peninsula coach Matt Robles said. “We talked about it at halftime. I think the boys did a great job responding to our challenge: We’ve got to maintain it for 16 minutes. It just came down to energy, effort and execution. It’s very simple but it’s the little things. There was nothing X’s and O’s-wise that we felt we had to adjust. We just had to maintain that mindset of going the full 16 minutes in the second half and I thought we did a good job of that.”
Peninsula received stellar play from three of its seniors. Sam Miller, Elijah McLaughlin and Seth Kasteler combined to score 47 of the team’s 59 total points.
“We kind of challenged them this week — we need some seniors to step up,” Robles said. They took that challenge head on and did a great job. We shared the ball as a team. We’re pretty darn good when we share the ball.”
McLaughlin scored all 16 of his points in the second half.
“We showed a lot of poise, especially in the second half,” McLaughlin said. “We got big stops after we scored.”
Peninsula will hope to keep it rolling. After a 68-46 opening-round loss to Prairie, the Seahawks found themselves with a difficult road to the state tournament. Peninsula will have to win two more elimination games to reach the state tournament.
Up next: Peninsula takes on Prairie on Tuesday, Feb. 13 at Foss High School in Tacoma. Tipoff is set for 6 p.m.
“We just have to stay poised,” Miller said. “It’s a long road. It’s not the one we envisioned, obviously. We have to win two more but we should take it a game at a time and try to get there. We want to get to the Dome.”
Robles said the team will embrace the challenge.
“We need our back against the wall a little bit — that just fits our team,” Robles said. “We’ve got a big challenge coming up on Tuesday. We’ve just got to maintain this level of focus and energy.”