Gateway: Sports

What we learned from Gig Harbor, Peninsula’s second doubleheader of season

Peninsula players celebrate their win as the buzzer sounds. Peninsula played Gig Harbor in a basketball game at Peninsula High School in Purdy, Wash., on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019.
Peninsula players celebrate their win as the buzzer sounds. Peninsula played Gig Harbor in a basketball game at Peninsula High School in Purdy, Wash., on Thursday, Jan. 31, 2019.

Fans were treated to a pair of exciting games in the regular season finales between both the boys and girls basketball teams from Gig Harbor and Peninsula high schools last week.

In the girls game, Peninsula beat Gig Harbor, 51-49, to win the Class 3A South Sound Conference title. Gig Harbor finished second place in the league.

On the boys side, Gig Harbor completed the season sweep as the Tides knocked off the Seahawks, 46-43. Gig Harbor locked down the league’s No. 5 playoff seed with the win. The Seahawks had already been eliminated from the postseason before the game.

Here are a few takeaways from Thursday night’s doubleheader from Purdy.

Frazier, Peninsula finally on top

Finally: That’s the first word I heard Peninsula High School senior Belle Frazier say in the aftermath of the win against crosstown rival Gig Harbor.

Frazier, who has been the face of the program since she stepped on campus as a freshman, had been 0-7 against Gig Harbor before Thursday night’s contest. And no game in the series had more on the line than this one. The winner would be crowned league champion, while the loser would settle for the No. 2 seed. It looked bleak for Peninsula, trailing 49-41 late in the fourth quarter to Gig Harbor.

But the Seahawks stormed back to win the game, giving Peninsula bragging rights over the Tides heading into the postseason and giving Frazier the elusive win over her rivals.

Tides defense an asset

Don’t count out the Tides just yet. For nearly the entire game, Gig Harbor was in control. What stood out was how the Tides stymied Peninsula’s usually potent offense.

Gig Harbor coach Megan Murray defensive plan was to keep Peninsula out of the transition game. And when Peninsula got into its half-court offense, the Tides threw a multitude of defensive looks at the Seahawks, whether it was a trap defense, 2-3 zone, 3-2, 1-3-1, man-to-man. Until a frenzied last three minutes of the game, Peninsula was never able to establish a rhythm offensively.

It’s fun to talk about eye-popping offensive stats, but Gig Harbor’s team defense is something that could carry them deep into the postseason.

Tides boys sneak in

Kudos to Billy Landram’s squad for not giving up on the season when it got off to a rough start. Gig Harbor started the season with a 1-8 overall record and it would’ve been easy to lose focus on making the playoffs. But the Tides fought back to win seven of their last 11 games to make the district tournament.

Gig Harbor didn’t blow anyone out in the league, usually keeping the games close, even in losses. That experience of playing tight games will help, and if Gig Harbor is making its outside shots, the Tides could surprise in the districts.

Lichau is a block machine

Peninsula’s 6-foot-8 junior forward was a difference maker for the Seahawks on the defensive end, even in the loss, blocking an unbelievable 10 shots and making the middle inaccessible for the Gig Harbor for long stretches of the game. Lichau finished the season averaging 5.5 blocks per game.

“It changes the game,” said Gig Harbor senior guard Kaden Garnaas. “On other teams, you’re going in and making layups and you’re able to get those shots off close to the hoop. When you have Kaleb in there, you’re more: Taking it in, jump stop, kick out, or pump fake. It just changes everyone’s rhythm, how they go to the hoop and everything.”

For a Peninsula squad that missed out on the playoffs this year, Lichau will be the focal point next season.

Three of four make the cut

Both the Gig Harbor boys and girls, as well as the Peninsula girls, are moving on.

The girls teams are the best bet for a state tournament appearance, as Peninsula finished with a 16-3 overall record, while Gig Harbor finished with at 15-5. Peninsula, led by Frazier, has the experience and talent to make a deep run this season.

Gig Harbor, led by senior Brynna Maxwell and a suddenly stingy defense, has the state experience from last season that could prove invaluable this time of year.

The Gig Harbor boys are more of a longshot, coming into districts with the No. 5 seed, the league’s final playoff spot.

Jon Manley covers high school sports for The Peninsula Gateway and The News Tribune. A McClatchy President’s Award winner, Manley has covered the Gig Harbor sports scene since 2013. Born and raised in Tacoma.