Four days in San Diego last week did the Olympia High School boys basketball team well.
The Bears won two games and lost two at the annual Surf ’N Slam high school basketball tournament but returned with fresh energy for the second half of the Class 4A South Puget League season.
“We went to California to grow, and I feel like that’s what we did,” said senior Hunter Sipe, Olympia’s leading scorer this season. “We played good teams, good competition, and had growth, as we saw in this game.”
Olympia (7-4, 5-2 4A SPSL) looked poised, leading most of the way against new league rival Puyallup before topping the Vikings, 59-50, on Tuesday night at Puyallup High School.
“I think it’s good for us,” Olympia coach John Kiley said. “We were just away, we were going really hard. A road win in the SPSL is a big deal. So this one, over a quality program, is a good way to start.”
The Vikings (6-3, 2-3 4A SPSL) just returned from the Tamanawis Holiday Tournament in British Columbia, where they scored more than 100 points in three consecutive games.
Kiley said the Bears specifically keyed in this week on breaking Puyallup’s relentless full-court press.
Several times on Tuesday night the Bears scored points in transition, often finding an open player at midcourt, and gradually slipped away.
“They really try to turn you over and give up a little to get,” Kiley said. “I think we’re going to look back on the tape and see a few too many turnovers, but I do feel like we looked ahead, we made some finishes, and I’m really proud of how the guys got to the rim.”
Casson Rouse, a junior transfer from Timberline who scored a game-high 19 points, opened the game with a quick basket to give the Bears an early lead.
Puyallup took its only lead three minutes later, when Myles Smith hit a 3-pointer, but it was short-lived.
Olympia regained the lead for good with 1 minute, 51 seconds to play in the first quarter when Lucas Bowser sunk a 3-pointer to make it 11-10.
The Bears steadily built on the lead from there and held the Vikings to 20-of-59 shooting (34 percent), including a scoring drought that lasted nearly four minutes late in the fourth quarter.
“We’ve been working really hard on communicating,” Kiley said. “I felt like tonight we shrunk the court a bit. They do a great job. They attack you, they space you out, they hit 3s. I felt like, for the most part, we made that difficult for them tonight.”
The Vikings went on an 8-1 run in the final two minutes to cut Olympia’s lead below double digits, but it was too late. Landen Neff led Puyallup with 13 points.
Rouse — who is averaging 15 points per game over the last six games, after missing time earlier in the season with a concussion — scored 15 of his 19 points after the break, and twice increased Olympia’s lead to double digits on breakaway layups in the second half.
“They have a good full-court press,” Rouse said. “They run it really well, they have the athletes for it. But, we were practicing a lot of drills and a lot of different types of ways to break it. We just executed what Coach said, and it was perfect.”
Sipe, who is averaging 14.8 points per game, added 17 points for the Bears. Olympia shot 22 of 40 (55 percent) from the field.
Sipe said he’s pleased with the way the Bears are fitting into the 4A SPSL midway through the season.
“It’s a fight every night,” he said. “Hopefully that will help push us to the playoffs and to keep working. That’s what we’re trying to do right now is keep working and grinding it out every day.”
“We’re definitely taking off,” Rouse said. “This is exactly what we needed, too, a big win like this.”