By Lee Horton
Peninsula Daily News
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But the eighth-ranked Knights had to work for it, finally pulling away in the final two minutes behind hot shooting from an unlikely source, senior Wayne Ayers.
Sequim (13-3, 15-5) settles for second place and will open the West Central District tournament with a bye before playing next Wednesday at Curtis High School in University Place.
“The league championship absolutely would have been nice. These guys have worked hard and I think they've proven a lot of people wrong,” Wolves coach Greg Glasser said of his team following Tuesday's game.
“A lot of people look at this score, and, you know, I don't even know what their interpretation might be. 'Oh, Bremerton may have got them.'
“But this was a very competitive game. And what a great high school basketball game it was.”
Entering the fourth quarter, the score was tied 50-50.
Sequim threatened to pull away on a few occasions early in the fourth, but Bremerton (15-1, 17-3) answered with 3-pointers by Ayers and Deonte Dixon.
Alex Barry connected with Erik Christensen upcourt for an easy layup to give the Wolves a 59-56 lead. Ayers tied it with a trey.
Sequim went ahead 64-61 with 4:03 remaining on a pair of free throws by Barry, who finished with 13 points. Dixon hit a 3.
With the Knights trailing by one point few minutes later, Dixon hit a 2-point bucket and Ayers made another 3-pointer to give Bremerton a 71-67 lead with two minutes left.
That lead held up as the Knights kept making shots, including 5 of 7 from the free-throw line, while the Wolves, for the first time since the games opening minutes, struggle to score.
Dixon, the favorite to win league MVP, finished with 19 points.
But Ayers was a surprising sniper, nailing five 3-pointers as part of his game-high 21 points.
“Don't read my scouting report on No. 20 [Ayers], because it's absolutely wrong. He went nuts tonight,” Glasser said.
“You just . . . I don't know; we've got to make adjustments earlier than that. But he was making a lot of shots.
“They just made more shots than us. It really kind of came down to that.”
The Knights opened the game as hot as they ended it.
Ayers hit his first 3-pointer 15 seconds into the game and Dixon had three dunks in the first six minutes as Bremerton opened up an 18-9 lead.
Sequim, though, was unfazed by the early deficit and the highlight show.
“He's a player,” Glasser said of Dixon. “He impressed my son, but it's like, 'OK, that's still two points.'
“We got down I think eight to them in the first game that we played, and so it looked like that [game] for a little bit, but our kids, they didn't care.”
The Wolves closed the first quarter on a 9-2 run to cut Bremerton's lead to 20-17.
By halftime, Sequim had a 37-32 advantage.
“[Bremerton is] so quick and athletic that they can create a lot of shots for themselves,” Glasser said.
“We have to work quite a bit harder to get that, but I thought our guys did a pretty good job of that. Alex [Barry] really went strong to the hole, Vance [Willis] did, and I thought that Anthony [Pinza] did, of course.”
Pinza led Sequim with 16 points. He also had eight assists, five rebounds and two steals.
Willis scored 14 points and Rory Kallappa had 10 points and four assists. Christensen finished with eight points and four offensive rebounds.
Josh McConnaughey, the Wolves' 6-foot-8 backup post, came in after the Knights' early run and helped man the middle, sometimes alongside starting post Christensen.
“Well, that's a lineup that we play sometimes. Defensively, it does clog up that middle a little bit,” Glasser said.
“Josh gave us some really good minutes, and I thought that everybody that went out there gave us some really good minutes — George [Johnson] did, I thought Jesse Francis again played real solid minutes for us.”
McConnaughey scored four points, grabbed five boards and blocked one shot.
After the game, the Wolves talked about learning from the loss so they will be better prepared for the postseason.
Glasser expressed pride in how his team played in a game that lived up to the hype of No. 1 versus No. 2 for the league championship.
“Just honored to be a part of it and honored to coach these guys. I thought the guys left it all out on the court tonight,” Glasser said.
“When we played them at Bremerton, both teams played pretty ugly. But tonight, that was a lot of fun.
“I think if you ask [Bremerton] coach [Darren Bowden], that was their best effort of the year.”
Bremerton 80, Sequim 74
Bremerton 20 12 18 30— 80
Sequim 17 20 13 24— 74
Mason 11, Ayers 21, Gurske 12, Dixon 19, Lewis 12, Sims 5.
Barry 13, Pinza 16, Christensen 8, Kallappa 10, Johnson 4, Willis 14, Francis 3, McConnaughey 4, Rutherford 2.
Sports Editor Lee Horton can be reached at 360-417-3525 or at email@example.com.