The Peninsula High School girls basketball team was cruising in its quarterfinal matchup against visiting Wilson High in the West Central III/Southwest bi-district tournament on Wednesday night.
The Seahawks led the Rams 38-23 at halftime, on pace to score nearly 80 points in the game. But then Wilson clawed back in the second half, eventually closing to gap to three points late in the fourth quarter, led by Hope Lalau, who scored a team-high 21 points.
The pace of the game spiralled out of control in the fourth quarter, with both teams’ run-and-gun styles resulting in sloppy play and constant turnovers. But eventually, Peninsula hung on to come away with the 69-65 win, which sends the Seahawks back to the Class 3A state tournament for the second consecutive year.
“Any time you can go to the state tournament, it’s fantastic,” said Peninsula coach Mike Schick. “The way we did it tonight was a little unorthodox. A lot of goofy stuff was happening. But we’ll take the win any way we can get it. Getting back to state this year was definitely high up on our goals.”
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Peninsula senior Belle Frazier, a Portland State signee, paced the Seahawks, scoring a game-high 30 points somewhat quietly and efficiently. For Frazier, reaching the state tournament two seasons in a row isn’t something she takes for granted, after coming in as a freshman to a program that was more or less in shambles.
“It has just turned around so much from the time my freshman class got here,” Frazier said. “It’s just so different. It’s amazing.”
Peninsula’s win over Wilson could prove beneficial in the state tournament. The Rams offered a style similar to Peninsula’s up-tempo style, which isn’t often played in the South Sound Conference.
“We were talking in the locker room before the game about how the SSC isn’t really into the fast paced, run-and-gun,” Frazier said. “It was nice to play someone that’s a lot like our style.”
Peninsula has more experience under its belt than a season ago, and the players feel more prepared for the state tournament this time around.
“I really tried to sit down with my assistants this year and schedule those teams with different styles so once we get into districts, we’ve seen different styles,” Schick said. “Once we get into state, we’ve seen every style. The girls are more accustomed to it.”
The win against Wilson sets up a rematch against crosstown rival Gig Harbor in the district tournament semifinals, scheduled for 7:45 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 15 at Puyallup High School, weather permitting. The rivals split the regular season series, with Peninsula coming away with the most recent win on Jan. 31, a 51-49 thriller which sealed the SSC 3A title for the Seahawks.
“We know they’re going to come in hungry,” Frazier said. “We’re coming in hungry. It’s just going to be a great game. It’s going to come down to who has the most heart.”
Between two programs which know each other so well, Schick said he believes it’ll come down to small details.
“Who’s going to be sharper, who’s going to want it more, who’s going to show up?,” Schick said. “The superstars are going to probably cancel each other out. (Gig Harbor guard) Brynna (Maxwell) is going to be Brynna, Belle’s going to Belle. We’ll see with the role players who wants to step up in the big time.”