When Gig Harbor High School senior guard Ben Hollenbeck walks into the office of his basketball coach, Billy Landram, one game on the calendar has stood out to him the past couple months: Peninsula.
The crosstown rivalry game has been circled on the calendar. Literally.
“Every time I go in there, I see it circled,” Hollenbeck said. “So I’m thinking, ‘We just have to get this game.’”
After being swept by Peninsula a season ago, it was the Gig Harbor Tides who emerged with the win in the first meeting of the teams in 2019. Gig Harbor (5-8 overall, 3-4 South Sound Conference 3A) used timely shooting and stifling defense to knock off Peninsula in front of a packed gym on Wednesday night, 50-42.
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“Coach (Landram) was telling us that people were lining up outside, waiting to get in here,” Hollenbeck said. “So I knew the atmosphere was going to be amazing. It was. The student section was packed on both sides. I’ve got to give it up to Peninsula, they have some awesome fans, too.”
Gig Harbor sophomore Zach Toglia scored a game-high 23 points for the Tides, including five 3-pointers.
“I was just feeling it,” Toglia said. “I hit my first three. Then I thought, ‘Just keep it going. Stay within yourself and knock down these shots.’ They just kept falling.”
For Toglia, it was his first time beating Peninsula (5-8 overall, 2-5 South Sound Conference 3A).
“I can’t put this into words. It’s one of the greatest feelings I’ve felt, ever. It’s really nice, in our hometown, to just come to school and beat them in our own gym. This one is a little more special than all the rest.”
Landram said Toglia’s big-game was eye-opening.
“It’s an emergence,” Landram said. “I think you find out a lot about kids in big games. Some guys like to play the better teams in the big stage. Some guys don’t like it as much. Clearly, I think he likes it. He got excited to play, he made some shots, played good defense. He’s a gamer.”
Gig Harbor freshman Asher Raquiza chipped in 10 points for the Tides. Kaden Garnaas added six, while sophomore guard Joe Owens scored five.
“Everyone is moving the ball around, being unselfish, setting screens,” Toglia said. “Just making the unselfish play to get the best shot possible.”
Peninsula had a rough night offensively, posting just 42 total points on the night. Tyler Spurlock led the way with 14 points, Myles Rupert added nine, Kaleb Lichau scored eight, Dane Jackson chipped in six and Roman Bockhorn tallied five.
“We just couldn’t get into a rhythm,” said Peninsula coach Matt Robles. “We tried a bunch of different things but nothing worked. I did a poor job of putting the guys in a spot to be successful. Once we got off to a slow start, we just couldn’t recover. That was kind of our downfall. … The ball stuck a little bit too much in everyone’s hands. We forced some tough shots. It’s tough to get into a good offensive rhythm.”
Gig Harbor’s defensive game plan mainly revolved around limiting opportunities for Peninsula’s top three scorers: Spurlock, Bockhorn and Lichau.
“We knew their offense was going to run through (Spurlock), so Joe (Owens) and I knew that we just had to stay in front of him,” Hollenbeck said. “I think we did a pretty good job. He’s really good at getting to the rim. So we just had to contain that, contain Spurlock, don’t let Bockhorn shoot, and contain Lichau. That was our goal tonight and I think we did a really good job of that.”
The loss dropped Peninsula to 2-5 in league, putting the Seahawks in a bit of a hole in the second half of the season. For the Seahawks, the margin for error is small from this point on.
“It’s a really high sense of urgency now,” Robles said. “We have to have it now. That’s good for us. They say you find out what type of team you have when adversity hits. Adversity has hit us pretty hard, square in the face. We’re going to see what we’ve got. The sun is going to rise tomorrow, we’re going to get back to work after school and we’re going to see how we can respond.”
Gig Harbor, meanwhile, has won four games in a row, including its last two league contests. After a sluggish start to the season, the Tides now find themselves in the midst of a turnaround.
“This is a really good league,” Hollenbeck said. “I think anybody can beat anybody in this league. We’ve kept it close with everybody. I think tonight was the first time we’ve really put it on the floor and just finished the game.”
Landram said the team is learning how to win this season.
“It’s good, especially for the younger kids, to believe that we can win and we should win,” he said. “Getting some experience trying to win at the end of the games, or trying to control the clock, all those things kind of come into play. Frankly, none of them have much experience with it. It’s been a learning experience and we’re getting better.”