By Lee Horton
Peninsula Daily News
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The Roughriders outlasted another slow start by outscoring the Wolves 44-26 after halftime.
“Yeah, we decided to actually play defense, so that helped out a lot,” Port Angeles guard Hayden Gunderson said of the Riders' halftime adjustments.
“Because we kind of let them get easy shots [in the first half], and we decided to actually defend up and not let them get such easy shots.”
Last year, Port Angeles beat Black Hills 62-36 in Tumwater as both teams finished the season with identical 3-17 records.
The Wolves surpassed last year's point total before the first half was even over.
Riders coach Brent Stephens said Port Angeles' depth showed in the second half of Saturday's game.
“Our style of play lends itself to big third and fourth quarters, because we're rotating 10-11 guys in the game, and that team was seven deep,” Stephens said after Saturday's game.
“Our third and fourth quarters are by far our strongest. The key is just becoming mature enough to figure out how put forth that effort in the first and second quarters consistently.
“The third and fourth quarter, the effort was through the roof, and we were a whole lot fresher than they were and that took its toll on them, I'm sure.”
After trailing 45-37 at half, the Riders scored 12 of the third quarter's first 15 points to take a 49-48 lead, their first since leading 7-6 three minutes into the game.
Derek Schumacher found Steven Lauderbeck for a bucket and Tristan Isett followed a miss for another two points to cut Black Hills' lead to 46-41.
Then Lauderbeck stole the ball, sent it upcourt to Cameron Burns, who passed it to Isett, who found Schumacher for an easy two.
A few seconds later, Burns made a steal near midcourt and took it home. Two minutes into the third quarter, the Wolves' lead had been cut to 46-45.
Black Hills scored to slow the Riders' roll, but only temporarily, as Austin Polly connected with Gunderson for another bucket to bring Port Angeles back within one point at 48-47.
Schumacher then hit a pair of free throws to give the Riders the lead.
“We just came together and started playing as a team, not so selfish like we did in the first half,” Gunderson said of the third quarter.
“We started looking for each other and started getting better shots.”
Port Angeles also improved its defensive effort after the Wolves' consistently broke through the Riders' press in the first two quarters.
“Foul trouble hampered us in the first half. Offensively, we weren't getting in any flow, defensively, we weren't doing what we wanted to do,” Stephens said.
“It's like we talked about, we weren't really doing anything effectively on defense other than getting them to play fast. But, getting them to play fast and giving up layups doesn't accomplish anything.”
Black Hills regained the lead at 50-49, but Port Angeles went on a 7-0 run to take a 56-50 lead with 1:55 remaining in the third quarter.
The Wolves were unable to mount a legitimate comeback thereafter, as the Riders continued to make timely baskets and grab timely rebounds the prevented Black Hills from having too many second-chance scoring opportunities.
The 5-foot-9 Gunderson was especially active on the defensive glass.
Pick-and-rolls left Gunderson defending bigger players when the Wolves' shot the ball, which made it his responsibility to crash the boards.
“Hayden is completely effort-oriented,” Stephens said.
“He's 110 percent on the floor all the time. So whether it's a rebound, a steal or attacking the basket hard, even finding the guy open in the corner, Hayden's going to do what it takes to help this team success.
“And he's done that all year. He's become a very good team leader.”
Gunderson kept Black Hills from building too big of lead in the first half with well-timed 3-pointers.
He finished with 20 points in a reserve role.
“He's also taken himself off the bench this year, which is a different role for him, being that last year we had the ball in his hands for a whole lot of the year,” Stephens said of Gunderson.
“But he's come off the bench and really sparked us, and kind of owned that.
“He's had some people ask him, 'Hey, coach got you coming off the bench?' and he goes, 'Yeah, I'm scoring 20 a night and we're winning.' And that's kind of his response.”
Hunter Hathaway led Port Angeles with 22 points and Derek Schumacher scored 14.
Black Hills' TJ Mickelson led all scorers with 26 points, including a nifty play in the fourth quarter in which he kept his dribble after being knocked to the floor, returned to his feet and hit a short jumper.
Port Angeles (4-2 Olympic League, 6-4 overall) is off until Friday, Jan. 10, when it hosts rival Sequim (4-1 Olympic League, 6-3 overall).
Stephens plans to give his team Monday and Wednesday off before returning to its normal practice schedule after the New Year.
Port Angeles 81, Black Hills 71
Black Hills 24 21 9 17— 71
Port Angeles 16 21 23 21— 81
Black Hills (4-6)
Jason Underhill 4, TJ Mickelson 26, Jaydon Troy 11, Casey Duff 17, Kyler Noyen 7, Zach Grate 6.
Port Angeles (6-4)
Brady Konopaski 5, Hayden Gunderson 20, Logan Ciaciuch 2, Steven Lauderbeck 6, Tristen Isett 8, Hunter Hathaway 22, Cameron Burns 4, Derek Schumacher 14.