By Lee Horton
Peninsula Daily News
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Dixon scored 16 of his game-high 30 points in the final period, with all but three of those points coming after Port Angeles had closed within one at 56-55 with 4:45 to play in the game.
“I tell everybody on our team Deonte Dixon is the best kid that we're going to play in our league,” Port Angeles coach Brent Stephens said following Friday's game.
Dixon did much of his late-game damage at the free-throw line, but he also forced turnovers and assisted on his teammates' baskets during the final minutes.
He opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer to give Bremerton a 50-38 lead.
But then the Riders staged the rally they had been unable to in the first three quarters. At the heart of the rally were seniors Derek Schumacher and Hayden Gunderson, who were playing the last home games of their careers.
Gunderson got it started with a 3-pointer from the right corner. Then Hunter Hathaway scored and was fouled, and his free throw made it 52-43.
Gunderson drilled another 3 from the right corner. He hit another moments later, this time from the left corner, to decrease the deficit to 56-50.
Schumacher then scored on an inbound lob and was fouled with 5:02 to play. He made the free throw, and the Riders were within three.
On Bremerton's next possession, Schumacher swiped the ball and took it to the hole for an uncontested layup that made it 56-55.
Schumacher finished with 20 points for Port Angeles. Gunderson scored 15 — all on 3-pointers, four of which came in the fourth quarter (he also hit one at the buzzer).
“I firmly believe Hayden Gunderson, Derek Schumacher and Hunter Hathaway are right up there [with Dixon] on any given night,” Stephens said.
“Derek's play has consistently improved all year long. The first time we played these guys he had six points. He missed some easy shots, they contested some things well and he kind of backed off and played side role for the rest of the game.
“Tonight, he did not do that. He didn't shoot the ball real well early on, but he found ways to be effective, and in the end, his body of work was pretty good for us.
“I don't think Derek Schumacher's intimidated by anybody.”
The Knights quickly halted Port Angeles' rally with a 6-0 run of their own. A steal and layup by Tavontay Carter was sandwiched by a four free throws from Dixon.
The Roughriders tried to mount up again. Sophomore Cameron Burns followed a Gunderson miss with a 3-point play to bring Port Angeles within four, 62-58, with 3:32 remaining.
Then, with under two minutes to play, Schumacher found Burns under the hoop for a layup. The Riders then forced a turnover and Brady Konopaski assisted on a Hathaway bucket to make it a four-point game at 67-63 with 1:40 left.
But Bremerton again responded. Dixon hooked up with Wayne Ayers for a score, and then scored a bucket of his own off a pass from Casey Winderl to push the Knights' lead to 71-63 with 1:10 to play.
Hathaway scored seven points for Port Angeles and Burns finished with nine.
“Cam is instant energy,” Stephens said of Burns.
“He works, he's a yes-sir, no-sir guy, he plays with passion. He loves his teammates. He does everything you want out of a sophomore.
“We got nine, 10, 11 guys who are ready to contribute and work. That is the one thing about this team, we really do work.”
Stephens said the Riders settled down as the game progressed after being “out of their element” early on, but it came a little bit too late.
“We started to play our game,” he said.
“With senior night and all of the nerves . . . with how big this game was, the kids, it took a while to get into their flow.
“If we had eight more minutes, we would have got them. We just can't start out slow.”
With the loss, Port Angeles (9-5 in league, 11-7 overall) falls a half-game behind Olympic (9-4, 11-6), which beat North Mason 55-44 Friday, for third place in the Olympic League.
The Riders start the week with a bye before playing at rival Sequim (11-2, 13-4) on Friday.
Port Angeles has a one-and-a-half game lead over North Kitsap (7-6, 10-7) for the Olympic League's final district playoff berth.
“All in all it was a five-point game against Bremerton,” Stephens said.
“I [told] those guys in the locker room: Bremerton is as good as any team we'll see in districts. I don't know that they're the favorite, but it's a one- or two-point swing against them and the other best teams in the district.
“So if we can compete against Bremerton, we can compete against anybody in our district tournament. The key is how good are we going to get over the course of the next two weeks?”
Bremerton 71, Port Angeles 66
Bremerton 18 16 13 24— 71
Port Angeles 9 17 12 28— 66
Bremerton (13-0, 15-2)
Winderl 2, Carter 6, Mason 6, Ayers 8, Dixon 30, Lewis 2, Sims 11, West 6.
Port Angeles (9-5, 11-7)
Konopaski 2, Gunderson 15, Lauderback 6, Rogers 2, Burns 9, Schumacher 20.
Sports Editor Lee Horton can be reached at 360-417-3525 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.