EVERETT — Peninsula College had five players reach double figures in scoring as the Pirates held back Clackamas 87-74 in a Sweet 16 matchup at the NWAC Men’s Basketball Championship at Everett Community College on Saturday.
“Our guys competed for the full 40 minutes and we had great balance in scoring,” Peninsula head coach Mitch Freeman said.
“The guys responded well to the morning game, we’ve been practicing at 8 a.m. this week in preparation for it and we had a great response by our team. We played well together.
With the win, Peninsula (20-10) advances to the NWAC Elite Eight and a showdown against South Puget Sound (23-7) today at 2 p.m. in Everett for a spot in next weekend’s Final 4.
The team’s have met once already this season with Peninsula beating South Puget Sound 79-66 in the Clackamas Holiday Invitational on Dec. 29.
Forks’ Marky Adams tied with Robert Buckley for the team lead in scoring with 16 in Saturday’s contest.
Adams knocked down 5 of 9 shots and 6 of 11 free throws and reached a double-double with a game-high 11 rebounds.
Buckley came off the bench to spark Peninsula in the second half, scoring 14 of his 16 after the break, including two 3-point baskets.
“[I] found a rhythm and kept it going,” Buckley said after the game. “Colby [Jackson] found me a few times in the corner, and I just have to work to get open and make the shots.”
Jackson added 15 points and six assists from his point-guard position.
“Colby Jackson was terrific, Marky Adams played really well down low and they were the inside-outside balance for us. “We had a good attack, got some reversals and James Buckley came off the bench and was fantastic for us.”
Other Pirates in double figures were Eli’Sha Sheppard with 12 off the bench on 5 of 8 shooting and Kaelin Crane who scored 10 and grabbed eight rebounds.
Nygil Carr led Clackamas (17-13) with 24 points, but only hit 9 of 22 shots from the floor. The Cougars’ other leading scorer, Isaiah Gentry added 14 points, three off his season average.
“Pressure defense was a big part of the gameplan, because we knew going in that No. 10 [Carr] and No. 20 [Gentry] take 60 percent of their shots,” Jackson told reporters after the game. “We put me and the other guard Cam [Burton] on their two best players to make things hard on them and the gameplan worked out.”
Freeman thought his players did well against Clackamas’ leaders.
“We did a good job on Gentry and Carr,” Freeman said. “We wanted to limit their ability to score multiple baskets, back-to-back baskets, because they can fill up the scoreboard quickly and we were able to do that for the most part.”
Peninsula was able to get to the free-throw line consistently, hitting 7 of 11 in the first half to take a 39-35 lead into the locker room, and 22 of 32 freebies on the game.
Buckley warmed up around the mid-way point of the second half, and his 3-point make at the 8-minute mark gave the Pirates a 65-52 lead.
A 17-4 run by Clackamas cut the Pirates’ lead to 75-69 with 5 minutes to play. Peninsula absorbed the Cougars’ best attempt at regaining the lead and Sheppard drained a 3 with just under 4 minutes to go to give the Pirates some breathing room.
“We were able to make timely shots in the second half to kind of keep them at bay,” Freeman said.
Sheppard, who played in two Class 4A state championship games at Kentwood, stepped back and stepped up with a big shot at a big moment.
“He understands this stage from playing in two state title games in a row, winning his senior year, and that was a rhythm shot, he’s been taking those all year and it was a huge boost for us,” Freeman said.
Peninsula hit 9 of 12 free throws in the final minutes to close out the game.
Now the Pirates will face a South Puget Sound team that looks a little differently than when the two teams met in late December.
“They didn’t have John Moore who is a strong, physical player for them,” Freeman said.
“But we know they are a 2-3 zone [defense] team that knows how to play well in that zone and they are well-coached. “It will be a tough matchup for our guys. We have to knock down some shots, play well on the inside-outside, rebound and keep that zone loose, a 2-3 zone can get tighter and tighter if you don’t hit some shots.
And they have quick, shifty guards, so we have to keep them in front of us and limit their opportunities. And we have to rebound the basketball and win the 50-5o balls.”
Peninsula 87, Clackamas 74
Clack 35 39 — 74
PC 39 48 — 87
Clackamas (74) — Carr 24, Gentry 14, Carson 12, Gehrig 10, Young 9, Tafua 5.
Peninsula (87) — Adams 16, Buckley 16, Jackson 15, Sheppard 12, Burton 11, Crane 10, Warren 7, Huish.
Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or at [email protected]