The Peninsula High basketball team knew it would have its hands full with Capital High junior guard Chris Penner. The oversimplified defensive gameplan, in a nutshell: Stop Penner; win the game.
That didn’t happen in Friday night’s game in Purdy, as Penner tallied 34 points, punishing the Seahawks from the free throw line and behind the arc as the visiting Cougars came out on top, 70-62.
“He’s a nice player, give him credit,” said Peninsula coach Matt Robles. “He’s a heck of an athlete, he can really play. He got going early, and once a player gets going early, they’re tough to stop. A player of his caliber, if he gets going early, we’re in a really tough position. All credit to Penner. He had a heck of a game. He’s very capable of that and then some.”
Penner scored 17 points in the first half alone, getting into a rhythm quickly against the Peninsula defense.
“We just didn’t guard him well,” said Peninsula guard Sam Miller, who finished with a team-high 17 points for the Seahawks. “He was getting open looks. We talked about it in practice. We have to stay on him. Coach told us he’s their man guy. We just didn’t guard him well; we gave him open looks. We let him get comfortable in the first quarter. Our plan was to (defend him) full court. That didn’t happen. We didn’t get him tired enough and he killed us.”
Peninsula trailed by 12 at one point in the first half, and despite entering the locker room only down five at half, it took longer than the Peninsula players would have liked to get things going. With the loss, Peninsula drops to 0-2 in the Class 3A South Sound Conference.
“It’s just the urgency,” Miller said. “We’re coming our flat. … We’ve got to be ready to play and we have to lose the sense of entitlement. We have to come out and win games.”
Robles isn’t sure why his team is starting games slowly, but it’s a trend he’s hoping to reverse sooner, rather than later.
“It’s something that falls on myself,” Robles said. “I have to make sure I have to do a better job. It’s not the team, it’s me. I’m struggling with that. I have to make sure I improve and help our guys improve. And we will. It’s tough for our guys.”
Peninsula forward Seth Kasteler was held in check, finishing with 14 points, and guard Elijah McLaughlin finished with 13 points. Miller emerged as the team’s leading scorer, hitting three 3-pointers, including two clutch shots from behind the arc in the second half.
“I’m feeling good but it doesn’t mean anything if we’re not winning games,” Miller said. “I’m just trying to help this team do what we can, whether it’s score, rebound, pass, defend. If we’re not winning, it doesn’t matter.”
There’s still plenty of season left for the Seahawks, but the 0-2 start is a bit frustrating for the team, which felt confident going into league play.
“It’s really frustrating,” Miller said. “We think we have the pieces. We know we have depth. We’re just not performing right now. But we’re going to bounce back and try to get a win (Saturday) against Aberdeen. Tuesday, we’ve got Yelm. That’s a league game, we’ve got to come out and get a win.”
For Robles, he expects things to turn around for the better.
“We just have to keep plugging away,” he said. “It’s game three. It’s a long season. Having a purpose in every practice and having a purpose in the game, just sticking with it. It’s going to help us get better.”