Trailing by more than 20 points at half against Kelso on Monday night in the West Central III/Southwest bi-district tournament, few in attendance probably felt the Peninsula High boys basketball team had a chance to get back in the game.
But the Seahawks stormed back in the second half, making the game interesting in the fourth quarter. Ultimately, the comeback fell short, as the Hilanders ended Peninsula’s season, 62-54.
“All I can say is I’m just proud,” said Peninsula coach Matt Robles. “It was awesome. They battled their butts off. You just can’t be down 22 to a good team. But boy, we didn’t quit. That’s all the boys. They’re a tough group.”
With 26 seconds to go in the game, the Seahawks got it within three points after a layup from junior guard Elijah McLaughlin, who led the team with 19 points. But Kelso converted its free throws down the final stretch to seal the game.
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Peninsula dug itself into a big hole in the second quarter, in which the Seahawks were outscored 22 to 5.
“(Kelso is) really good,” Robles said. “They’re tough, they’re physical. We couldn’t get the ball inside and we settled. Since we couldn’t get the ball inside, we were settling for threes. In the first half, we were 2 for 10 from three (-point range). That’s not our game. We got out of rhythm and we couldn’t buy a bucket. That was it.”
There was no big pump-up speech at halftime, according to Robles. He said he knew it would come down to the players, not coaching.
“It had nothing to do with me,” Robles said. “It had to do with the leadership we have. We’ve got great seniors. We just have a great group. They just drive each other, push each other and hold each other accountable. They deserve all the credit for that comeback. They were so tough and resilient.”
After starting the season 3-8, it was a feat for Peninsula to turn its season around and get into the playoffs.
“Let’s be honest: No one thought we’d get this far,” Robles said. “No one. And we knew that. I’m just proud. It’s pretty cool.”
Peninsula will most miss senior guard Cade McGill, who poured in 18 points for the Seahawks in the losing effort. Junior Seth Kasteler added 11 points for Peninsula.
Kelso was led by junior guard Emmitt Kinch, who scored 19 points and hit five 3-pointers in the first half alone. Sophomore forward Shaw Anderson also scored 19 for the Hilanders, while sophomore Riley Noah added 10 points.
Peninsula ended the season with an 11-12 record.