Gateway: Sports

What to watch for in regular season finales between Gig Harbor, Peninsula boys and girls hoops

Gig Harbor High School freshman Asher Raquiza drives to the hoop against Yelm on Friday, Jan. 5, 2019.
Gig Harbor High School freshman Asher Raquiza drives to the hoop against Yelm on Friday, Jan. 5, 2019.

The regular season is officially coming to an end for the Gig Harbor and Peninsula boys and girls basketball teams. The teams will once again play in a varsity doubleheader, this time hosted by Peninsula High School on Thursday, Jan. 31. The girls game tips off first at 6:30 p.m., with the boys game following, with an 8 p.m. start time.

Here’s what to watch for on Thursday night.

One last meeting?

Gig Harbor High senior Brynna Maxwell and Peninsula senior Belle Frazier will be playing each other for the final time, barring a possible playoff meeting.

The two have been AAU teammates together since fourth grade and will leave their respective programs as two of the best to ever come through Gig Harbor and Peninsula high schools. Maxwell has never lost to Frazier and Peninsula in her high school career, though the games have become increasingly challenging recently.

Gig Harbor narrowly escaped with a 52-51 win over Peninsula in the first meeting between the teams on Jan. 9, thanks in large part to Maxwell’s game-high 35 points, including hitting the game-winning shot with less than 15 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

Frazier, who scored a team-high 18 points in the loss, is eager to flip the script and leave high school with bragging rights over her longtime teammate and competitor.

League title at stake

Outside of Maxwell and Frazier’s send off and personal rivalry, the larger story is between the two teams, which will be fighting for the Class 3A South Sound Conference title on Thursday night. Both teams have posted an 11-1 league record to this point, so whoever wins Thursday will be crowned league champion, assuming neither team loses their contests on Tuesday, which appears unlikely.

Either way, both teams will advance to the postseason, regardless of Thursday night’s outcome. But let’s be honest: It’d be sweeter with the league title in-hand.

Who are the X-factors?

Maxwell (24.8 points per game) and Frazier figure to score plenty of points, but it’s the other players on both teams that could decide who wins.

For Gig Harbor, senior guard Sydney Langworthy is an important player on both sides of the ball. Averaging 8.1 points per game, when she’s knocking down her outside shots, Gig Harbor becomes a very tough team to beat. Sophomore Meghan Edwards (7.1 points per game) and junior forward Tate McReynolds (5.1) could also be factors for the Tides.

Peninsula has had more balanced offensive production this season. Frazier is the team leader, averaging 17.2 points per game, with sophomore Linsey Lovrovich just behind, with 16.9 points and sophomore Piper Bauer chipping in 12.2 points.

Perhaps an underrated aspect of Gig Harbor’s 2018-19 team has been its team defense, which has come on particularly strong in the last month. Only one opponent (Peninsula) has scored more than 50 against the Tides in January. In seven games, Gig Harbor is holding its opponents to a paltry 31 points per game.

What’s on the line for the boys teams?

Perhaps nothing, but there’s a chance Gig Harbor could sneak into the playoffs as the league’s No. 5 seed. As of Tuesday morning, North Thurston is in fifth place with a 5-7 league record, Gig Harbor sixth at 4-8 and Peninsula seventh at 3-9.

Since Gig Harbor swept Thurston in the two meetings between the teams this season, the Tides could get in with by matching Thurston’s record, meaning they’ll need the Rams to lose at least one of their two games this week, in addition to Gig Harbor winning both. With North Thurston playing Timberline on Thursday, this scenario doesn’t seem far-fetched.

Peninsula, meanwhile, was swept by North Thurston in the regular season and is eliminated from the playoff picture.

There’s more motivation in this game for Gig Harbor. But it’s a rivalry game, and it’s safe to assume the Peninsula players would love nothing more than to spoil Gig Harbor’s postseason ambitions.

Boys players to watch

Gig Harbor has shown some flashes of being a very good team. Sophomore Zach Toglia has emerged into one of the team’s top players, while senior guard Kaden Garnaas has been steady all season. Freshman Asher Raquiza has been an invaluable sixth man for the Tides, bringing a soft shooting touch and athleticism off the bench. Other players like Joe Owens, Ben Hollenbeck and Drew Parrish have shown up at times for the Tides, also.

Peninsula has been a bit more reliant on its three primary scorers, with senior Tyler Spurlock leading the way, averaging 16.2 points per game. Luckily for the Seahawks, the team will return its No. 2 and 3 scorers from this season, in juniors Roman Bockhorn (11.6) and Kaleb Lichau (10.6).

A rivalry win to close out the season would give Peninsula a boost heading into the offseason.