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Tasked with replacing entire starting five, Peninsula still expecting to contend in SSC

Peninsula High School 6-foot-8 junior forward Kaleb Lichau at practice on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018.
Peninsula High School 6-foot-8 junior forward Kaleb Lichau at practice on Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2018. jmanley@gateline.com

The Peninsula High School basketball team will have a new look this year. Third-year coach Matt Robles and the Seahawks are tasked with replacing the entire starting five from last season, including the team’s leading scorer from a season ago, Seth Kasteler.

But Robles is looking on the bright side.

“Those guys could really score the ball,” Robles said. “They were great basketball players. But I think we’re going to share the ball a little more this year. That’s our hope and our plan, that we can kind of share it. We’ve got a lot of guys that can shoot it. We’ve got a lot of guys that can shoot off the dribble. I think we have the chance to be a very unselfish team, put some points on the board, just by moving it, being unselfish and making the extra pass. We’re only a week in, but we like what we’ve seen so far.”

Expect senior point guard Tyler Spurlock to key heavily into replacing some of that scoring production. The athletic 6-foot-3 guard had his best offseason yet, earning rave reviews from the coaching staff and his teammates.

“He has taken a huge step,” Robles said. “I think people are going to be really surprised when they see him and the difference from last year. This summer, he took a huge step as our main ball handler and probably our main scorer. The biggest thing he grew was just with his leadership and confidence. Everything else, the basketball part will take care of itself. To just see his future and his potential, it’s very exciting.”

Spurlock, who served last year as a defensive pest and an offensive spark-plug off the bench, has the green light this year.

“I’m feeling really comfortable,” Spurlock said. “Robles loves to get me, Kaleb (Lichau) and Roman (Bockhorn) a lot of shots. It’s helped with my confidence. I’ve worked this offseason on building my confidence. I’ve just been working on my skills in the gym every day, just trying to get better.”

But Spurlock doesn’t see his role as primarily scoring. He’s still focused on getting all of his teammates involved in the offense.

“I play the one, so I have the role of passing, also,” he said. “My job is to facilitate the offense, make sure people are in the right spots and get people shots, as well.”

One player he’ll look to is 6-foot-8 junior forward Kaleb Lichau, who put on about 10 pounds in the offseason. While Lichau has spent the majority of his time around the perimeter last season, he knew he needed to bulk about and work on his interior game.

“It was a big emphasis for me,” Lichau said. “Last year, I would kind of stand around the perimeter and jack up 3s. I’m getting in the post more now.”

Robles said he was “pleasantly surprised” to see Lichau’s growth in confidence during the offseason, and expects him to be a key player on both ends for the Seahawks.

“He’s starting to blossom and fill out,” Robles said. “To get him and Tyler and a few of the guys working together has been good. And with his versatility — being able to go inside and out — I think he’s starting to realize what he can do, and once he figures that out even more, it’s going to be a lot of fun to watch.”

Capital is the likely favorite in this year’s Class 3A South Sound Conference. With North Thurston losing the bulk of its scoring from last season, and Timberline losing current Wichita State forward Erik Stevenson, the rest of the league looks wide open.

“I think Capital is the team to beat,” Robles said. “They’ve got a lot of guys returning and I think they added a guy or two. They’re well coached and they’re just tough. We really respect them. I like the way they play. Timberline is always a team to deal with. They’re athletic, they get in your grill, they’re well coached. After that, there’s a whole lot of teams fighting for that third, fourth spot. I think we have a chance to fight for that spot heading into district playoffs.”

While it could take a little time for Peninsula to settle in with a new starting five, none of the players expect this to be a rebuilding year.

“I think if we play to our full potential, we’ll win the league,” Spurlock said. “I think we can take (Capital) this year. We’ll give them a run for their money.”

2018-19 PENINSULA SCHEDULE

Nov. 27: Olympic, 7 p.m.

Dec. 5: at Shelton, 7 p.m.

Dec. 7: North Thurston, 7 p.m.

Dec. 10: at Union, 6 p.m.

Dec. 12: at Yelm, 7 p.m.

Dec. 14: Capital, 7 p.m.

Dec. 19: Central Kitsap, 7 p.m.

Jan. 4: at Timberline, 7 p.m.

Jan. 9: at Gig Harbor, 8 p.m.

Jan. 11: Shelton, 7 p.m.

Jan. 16: at North Thurston, 7 p.m.

Jan. 18: Yelm, 7 p.m.

Jan. 23: at Capital, 7 p.m.

Jan. 25: at Central Kitsap, 7 p.m.

Jan. 29: Timberline, 7 p.m.

Jan. 31: Gig Harbor, 8 p.m.

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