The Peninsula High School basketball team was the last in-state team standing in the “Tournament of Champions” hosted by Seattle’s Franklin High School over the holiday break.
Peninsula posted a 2-2 record and advanced to the semifinals in a tournament which featured teams from all over the country. Of the 10 teams from Washington, Peninsula advanced the furthest.
Peninsula opened the tournament with a 55-54 win over Class 3A Metro League opponent Cleveland. Guard Tyler Spurlock scored 24 points in the win, while junior guard Roman Bockhorn added 16 for the Seahawks.
“It was a great win for us,” said Peninsula coach Matt Robles. “They’re big, they’re strong.”
Cleveland guard RayShawn Harris scored 29 for the Eagles, but the Seahawks found a way to come out on top.
“To be able to compete and find a way to win, it was a lot of fun and I think our boys are starting to realize how good we can be when we play as a unit.”
Spurlock and Bockhorn both averaged 14 points per game for the Seahawks in the tournament, while forward Kaleb Lichau averaged 10. Spurlock was named to the all-tournament team.
“(Spurlock) had a really nice tournament for us,” Robles said.
Peninsula followed up its win against Cleveland with a 56-53 win over Stanwood in the quarterfinals. Lichau scored a team-high 19, while Spurlock added 16 and Bockhorn chipped in 14 points for the Seahawks.
Things got tougher for the Seahawks in the tournament semifinals, where the Seahawks faced a loaded Canyon Springs squad from Nevada, losing 80-53.
“They are big, strong, fast, can shoot it,” Robles said. “They don’t have many weaknesses. They have one loss on the season and they’re averaging about 80 points per game. They were a much better team than us on that night. Credit to them.”
In the third/fourth place consolation game against Arbor View (Nevada), Peninsula was leading for most of the game, but Lichau, the team’s 6-foot-8 forward, fouled out of the game with about four minutes remaining.
“They took advantage of our lack of height after that,” Robles said.
Arbor View went on to win, 51-48, giving Peninsula a fourth-place tournament finish. Given the competition the Seahawks were up against, the coaching staff and players were pleased with the finish, especially sealing two big wins and being the last team remaining in the tournament from the state.
“We competed really well,” Spurlock said. “We came pretty close to winning that lost game and I think we learned a lot.”
Particularly, it was a chance for Peninsula to see some different styles of basketball that they don’t often see in the Class 3A South Sound Conference.
“We learned how to deal with full-court pressure better,” Spurlock said. “It’s something we’re not really used to in our league. So it was nice to get something different. I think we’ll handle pressure better in the future now.”
The win against Cleveland, particularly, was a confidence-booster for the Seahawks, given the high level of play in the Metro League. Even the program’s best team in the 2015-16 season, led by current UC Santa Barbara guard JaQuori McLaughlin, saw its season end at the hands of Cleveland in the regional round of the Class 3A state tournament.
“Those teams are obviously very talented,” Robles said. “They play in the best league in the state and one of the best on the whole West Coast. They have a confidence to them. For us to go up there and play at Franklin and get that win, it should give us a boost heading into league. The boys found a way. Hopefully we can start believing in our own capabilities.”
Peninsula has been forced to grow up quickly this season, after losing its entire starting five from a season ago. The team hopes its good showing at the Franklin tournament will be a launching point for the second half of the season and the continuation of league play.
“I think we’ve grown up a lot,” Spurlock said. “We’ve gotten closer to each other, we’re learning to trust each other. We’re getting a better feel for everyone’s roles. We’re all still so unselfish. Everyone just wants to win. Nobody has personal goals to score this many points in a game, or anything like that. Our main goal is to win, and we’re all together on that and all on the same page.”
For Robles, the challenge of replacing an entire starting five isn’t new. He had to do the same thing in the 2016-17 season, when he took over as the program’s head coach. But even when the Seahawks are in the learning phase, the Seahawks have always played tough.
“It’s what we preach,” Robles said. “We preach taking pride in our program, being a good person off the court and in the community and always competing and being tough. It’s something we always talk about. It’s just reminding the guys, we have to get better every day.”