Want more top stories? Sign up here for daily or weekly newsletters with our top news.
Peninsula Daily News
PORT ANGELES — The Peninsula College men’s basketball team enters NWAACC play on a roll.
The seventh-ranked Pirates (9-4) have won six straight games after plowing through tournaments at Umpqua and Clackamas community colleges last month.
The Peninsula men and women both open their NWAACC seasons at home against Whatcom on Saturday.
The women tip off at 5 p.m. and the men’s game starts at 7 p.m.
Despite the recent run of success, head coach Lance Van Vogt said the Peninsula men still have room to grow.
“We’re always a work in progress,” Van Vogt told the Peninsula Daily News on Thursday.
For instance, although the Pirates (9-4) are near the top of the NWAACC in a number of defensive categories — first in opponents’ field goal percentage (39 percent) and opponent 3-point field goal percentage (29 percent); second in steals — Van Vogt said there is “still room on the table to improve” the team’s defensive consistency.
Peninsula allows 72 points per game and scores 82.
The Pirates have been led by a trio of players: Xavier Bazile (17 points per game), Salim Gloyd (averaging 16 points and 10 rebounds) and Djuan Smith (15 points, six rebounds).
“All three of them are talented players, but they are just scraping the surface of what they can be,” Van Vogt said.
“They’re young. They’re still figuring out how to play college basketball.”
Bazile and Gloyd are freshmen. Smith is a sophomore, but only played a few games before sitting out most of last season with an injury.
“He’s essentially a freshman,” Van Vogt said.
Including the tournament championships they won last month, Peninsula has won five of the last six tournaments they have entered (the only loss was last season’s NWAACC championships, in which the Pirates made it to the Final Four).
Van Vogt said success in formats that require a team to play three games in three or four days requires unselfishness and talent.
“We have players willing to put aside their own agendas for the team,” he said.
“We’re also a deep team.”
Daniel Sims, a sophomore point guard, is evidence of both.
He averages 13 points, six assists and six rebounds, and provides stout defense and deft passing while coming off the bench.
“He can change the complexion of the game,” Von Vogt said.
Forward Arnold Anderson is a defensive specialist.
“We put him on the other team’s best forward or wing and he neutralizes him,” Van Vogt said.
Starting point guard TreShawn King Dunbar doesn’t score a lot of points, but Van Vogt said he serves as a leader on the court.
King Dunbar also excels off the court. He was recently named Peninsula College student of the month after being nominated by the English department.
Other key contributors are G.P. Panoam and Donald Gaddy.
Van Vogt arranged a difficult non-conference schedule to prepare the Pirates for the competition they’ll face in the NWAACC North Division.
Peninsula’s first conference opponent, Whatcom, is ranked No. 2 in the NWAACC. Other teams Van Vogt expects to compete for the division crown are Bellevue, Everett, Edmonds and Shoreline.
“It’s the strongest division in the NWAACC,” Van Vogt said.
“The North Division is like the ACC or Big East of the NWAACC.”
To beat Whatcom (8-4) will require sound post defense by the Pirates.
The Orcas are led by 6-foot-5 Zach Stalin (17 points, 11 rebounds) and 6-foot-7 Chris Tanis (10 points, six rebounds).
Van Vogt said the Pirates should be up to the task.
“We’re able to defend the post really well,” he said.
“We’re expecting a tough game.”
Saturday is also crucial to the Peninsula women.
“Last year, [Whatcom] tied with us for third, so this is a huge game to start off the season, and going forward to see who will be in the title hunt this year,” head coach Alison Crumb said in a release from Peninsula College.
“Our team understands we have a tough matchup Saturday and will be ready to play.”
The Pirates have had to overcome injuries to post a 5-5 nonconference record, which includes a third-place finish at the Lane Crossover Tournament.
Starter Jesse Ellis has missed games recently after suffering a stress fracture. In the games she has played, the sophomore guard is averaging 12.3 points and nine rebounds.
Crumb is hopeful Ellis’ absence will end soon.
“Saturday’s game is suspect for her at this point, but we are hoping by next Saturday she will be back in uniform,” Crumb said.
The Pirates have been led by sophomore Taylor Larson, who is shooting 60 percent from the field and averaging 16.5 points per game.
Other double-figure scorers are Jasmine Yarde (14.7 points per game) and Abby Jones (11 points).
Starting point guard Karli Brakes is in the top five in the NWAACC in assists per game with 4.56.