PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles’ 72-60 senior night victory over Olympic may be just what the team needed in the home stretch toward postseason play.
A bit of a wake-up call.
The Roughriders trailed just once — 3-2 — and never let the Trojans come closer than four points in the third quarter and eight early in the fourth — but it was a game of fits and starts for Port Angeles (9-1, 14-4).
In the first half, the Riders struggled from the field and at the foul line, missing a number of good looks inside and shooting just 1 of 6 from the free-throw line.
“We needed to play with a sense of urgency,” Port Angeles coach Kasey Ulin said. “We just floated for the first 16 minutes. We acted like we were just going to put our jerseys on and win because we were 8-1 in league and we beat them the first time.
“We missed seven or eight layups, we were 1 for 6 from the free throw line. We could have been at 40 to 45 points but the concentration wasn’t there.”
As their record suggests, the Trojans (5-5, 9-9) are a good but not great Olympic League team and Ulin knows his Riders will face better squads in just a matter of days.
“So the question for us is how great do we want to be?” Ulin said. “I was happy with the second half, but we are getting to the point in the season where we need to play four full quarters of basketball and that wasn’t the case tonight. We played in spurts, we had two or three good spurts that allowed us to get separation.”
“We challenged them at halftime and they came out with a greater sense of urgency. Defensively we were great, offensively we played with more spacing, the ball movement was better and we were more confident.”
Port Angeles honored its five seniors before the game — Kyle Benedict, Liam Clark, Garrett Edwards, Gabe Long and Payton Schmidt.
Clark, who was announced as the program’s all-time leading rebounder (540 entering Friday’s game) and shot-blocker (245), came on offensively in the second half to score 12 of his 14 points. That included a sensational two-handed alley-oop dunk off of a lob by Edwards late in the fourth quarter.
Edwards struggled to find his shot in the first half, but stayed with it and ended up with 16 points, 11 after halftime.
Benedict led the Riders with 17 points, 12 coming in the second half, despite playing with foul trouble.
“He made some big plays in transition, hit some big shots and played well on defense with those fouls in the second half,” Ulin said. “Gabe and Gary [Johnson] had their hands in the passing lanes in the second half, got us some great deflections, made some excellent passes and set guys up for scores.”
Schmidt was steady with five points in each half to put in 10.
“There’s a lot of emotion in this type of game, and these five seniors have been phenomenal,” Ulin said.
“I can’t say enough about those five guys and the work they have put in. We told them before the game, ‘When you guys were freshmen we were one of the bottom programs in the state.’
“Now we are one of the best programs in the state and we are going to stay that way because of the foundation that’s been laid and the culture that’s been created. And much of that is because of those five seniors. So I can’t thank them enough, the relationship and bond that’s been built with them.”
But Ulin was quick to point out his team has yet to reach its goals.
“But the reality is, we haven’t done anything yet,” Ulin said. “We’ve won a bunch of league games. So we need to be better, we need to be engaged and we need to pursue greatness.
“Here in a week and a half when we get to the district tournament we are going to be playing some talented, athletic teams and we want to be able to play and not have to turn it on. We have to play disciplined, intelligent basketball all the time.
“Coaches, we need to improve as well.”
Ulin wants to see his guys enjoy the rewards for their efforts as well.
“This group is special,” he said. “The chemistry is great, they like each other, they play for each other. …
“When it starts clicking with our offense, and how good we are defensively, we are fun to watch. Tonight, we just made it a little harder on ourselves than it needed to be.”
Port Angeles, now ranked eighth in the Class 2A RPI, visits Bremerton on Tuesday.
Port Angeles 72, Olympic 60
Olympic 8 16 17 19— 60
PA 16 12 23 21— 72
Olympic (60) — Barron 19, Morgan 19, Brehmer 5, Talarico 5, Nelson 3, McInnis 2, White 2, Lindal 2, Smukowska 2, Kinsfather 1.
Port Angeles (72) — Benedict 17, Edwards 16, Clark 14, Schmidt 10, Johnson 7, Long 4, Kathol 4, Cobb, Jarnagin, Nickerson.
Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or at [email protected]