Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News Peninsula’s Nyair Cleveland, right, take aim at the hoop as Bellevue’s Malik Sanchez defends on Wednesday evening on the Pirates’ home court in Port Angeles.

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News Peninsula’s Nyair Cleveland, right, take aim at the hoop as Bellevue’s Malik Sanchez defends on Wednesday evening on the Pirates’ home court in Port Angeles.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Peninsula men edge Bellevue in NWAC division opener

PORT ANGELES — Peninsula College handled two Bellevue runs in the second half and finished strong over the final five minutes to open NWAC North Region men’s basketball play with a 76-72 victory at home.

“I give credit to our guys for staying tough,” Pirates coach Donald Rollman said. “We’ve been preaching slow down, observe the game and play with some flat-out toughness. And we defended really hard. Our guys were fighting through ball screens all game long.

“We got every rebound in the last five minutes, got all the 50-50 balls and we made some shots.”

Davien Harris-Williams hit two big 3s in the final 3:53 of the game, one to pull the Pirates within 68-67, and another to give Peninsula a 73-72 lead with 1:23. He also sank two free throws to put Peninsula up 75-72 with 17 seconds left.

“Davien is a gamer,” Rollman said. “He just wants to win, so it doesn’t matter if he’s [shooting] o for 10 or 10 for 10.

“He hit those two big 3s, and he has been in position to hit late free throws and he did that again [Wednesday night].

He’s starting to learn how to impact games in other ways when teams are trying to shut him down.”

Rollman was even more impressed with his defense on Bellevue’s leading scorer, Kai Warren, who came into the game putting up 17 points per game.

Warren, a North Kitsap grad, is a name familiar to area prep basketball fans.

[Harris-Williams] made those clutch shot, but the best part of his game was completly shutting down Kai Warren.

“He’s averaging 17 and he had two points on 1 of 12 shooting. Davien really defended with that toughness.”

Erik Kelly led the Pirates with 22 points on 8 of 12 shooting and also grabbed a team-high 10 rebounds.

“When Erik is aggressive he is a nightmare for the opposition,” Rollman said. “He’s strong, patient in the post and you can’t double team him. Teams have tried, but he’s a great passer out of the post and creates rhythm shots for our shooters.”

Nyair Cleveland came off the bench to score 21 points in 16 minutes. Cleveland hit on 7 of 8 shots, including 2 of 2 on 3-point shots, in the win.

“For five freshman to play together and beat a team like Bellevue when they haven’t been in a game like that yet, that was huge for our growth.

The Pirates (1-0, 4-11) visit Edmonds (1-0, 11-5) on Saturday.

Peninsula 76, Bellevue 72

Bellevue 35 37 — 72

Peninsula 37 39 — 76

Bellevue (72) — Shaw 16, Walker 15, Jlan 11, Siale 7, Sanchez 6, Wilhonen 6, Manalo 5, Newhouse 4, Warren 2,

Peninsula (76) — Kelly 22, Cleveland 16, Harris-Williams 13, Moore 8, Kahapea 7, Seldon 4, Thomas 4, Glover 2.

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Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or at [email protected]

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