After falling down by nine points on the road against South Kitsap on Dec. 20, Peninsula High School coach Matt Robles took out his entire starting five, opting to give the next five a chance.
Slow starts to games have been a theme for Peninsula all season. Robles wanted to give the game a new energy.
The second group battled and closed the gap, playing with better energy in the first quarter. And the starters weren’t out for long.
But ultimately, Peninsula lost, 59-45. Basketball is a game of runs, and the slow start may not have cost Peninsula the game, but it sure didn’t help.
“We just need to stop thinking we’re entitled,” said Peninsula guard Elijah McLaughlin, who finished with 10 points for the Seahawks. “We’re not like Rainier Beach — we’re not the most skilled team in the state or the league. We need to come out with energy.”
Robles insisted he wasn’t trying to send a message to his starters by taking them out in the first quarter.
“Just the second group was playing a lot better,” Robles said. “When that second group went in there, they went on a little run, they kept it close, they were competitive and playing hard. It was a real credit to that next five that went in. It wasn’t a message. We just needed energy. It was dead. We were just trying to make anything happen and it just happened to be those guys.”
The slow starts continue to perplex Robles.
“I’m just doing a poor job getting our guys prepared and ready to play,” Robles said. “I have to do a better job. The guys are doing what we ask of them in practice. It starts with me. I apologize to the guys. We can’t come out with slow starts. We have to be ready to play. It’s no secret that we start slow. We have to do a better job. It’s on me.”
Peninsula was held to seven points in the first quarter and six points in the third quarter. While the energy level increased after the first quarter, the shots weren’t falling for the Seahawks.
“We just came out slow,” McLaughlin said.
Robles credit the Wolves’ gameplan defensively.
“They did a good job defensively,” Robles said. “They were mixing it up, keeping us off balance, we couldn’t get in a rhythm. All credit to them. Once they would start mixing it up, we’d get hesitant and start second guessing ourselves. I wasn’t putting our guys in a position to be successful. It was a tough night.”
One big highlight for Peninsula was McLaughlin sinking a half-court 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer.
“That’s his second one of the year,” Robles said. “But we can’t be relying on those to get our offense. When that’s one of our high-percentage shots, we’re in trouble. We’ve got to go back to the drawing board.”
Peninsula forward Seth Kasteler scored a team-high 11 points for Peninsula, which fell to 4-3 overall and 2-2 in the SSC 3A. Peninsula will travel to Lake City, Idaho after Christmas to play in a holiday tournament Dec. 27 through 29.
It’s a valuable slate of non-league games for Peninsula to work on some things before returning to the league schedule after the break.
“We have to fix our slow starts,” Robles said. “That’s a big one. And second, just being competitive and being a little tougher. I thought we lacked some toughness today. We’ve got to get better. We have to learn from this and keep improving.”