EVERETT — Peninsula College struggled to defend against Green River, allowing the Gators to shoot 56 percent from the field in an 89-66 Northwest Athletic Conference (NWAC) Sweet 16 contest Thursday at Everett Community College.
The Pirates couldn’t find an answer inside for former Peninsula player Kevin Baker in the first half. The 6-foot-8 Baker scored all 22 of his points on 9 of 11 shooting, including hitting three 3-point baskets, as Green River pushed to a 48-32 halftime advantage.
“When he gets going and when he’s in a rhythm he can knock down his shots,” Peninsula coach Donald Rollman said of Baker, who led the NWAC in shooting percentage as a freshman for the Pirates in 2016.
“They got too many quick buckets off and he got loose in transition a couple of times and he got shots off the ball screen stuff and popped a few shots from deep,” Rollman said.
Peninsula was aiming to slow down Baker, who averaged 21.6 points in the regular season, and another athletic big, 6-7 Alex Sommerfield, coming into the contest.
“We didn’t execute exactly how we wanted to defensively on the plan we had going in,” Rollman said.
“Their guards play hard and put pressure on the rim and we wanted them to have to score and make plays. They have two bigs that do a lot for them as well. And the bigs were able to get loose from the penetration. They spread us out pretty well.”
Peninsula hit 8 of 16 3-point shots in the first half to hang around against the Gators.
Davien Harris-Williams scored 17 of his 24 points, including knocking down 5 of 8 3-point shots, in the first half.
Samuel Kahapea hit five 3s on the game for the Pirates and ended up with 21 points.
“Sams and Dav did a great job of hitting those shots,” Rollman said.
“We knew that coming in. We knew we would have to make shots. We definitely wanted to get the ball in the paint a little more. And we did a good job of attacking their zone early, making them move, opening up those shots. But when you get behind you start to rush, to forget the little things and keep attacking the zone, or to get the to the corner [against] that 1-3-1 [zone defense].”
“We were not as aggressive in the block, we had guys kind of fading away on shots. And we weren’t finishing at the rim or finishing at the foul line as well as we can.”
Peninsula, which rallied from 17 down at the break to beat Bellevue and earn its NWAC Tournament berth, was unable to muster the same magic in the second half Thursday.
Sommerfield and guard Mitch Wetmore combined to score 34 of the Gators’ 41 second-half points.
Sommerfield had 24 points, 18 in the second half, while Wetmore scored 16 of his 22 after the break.
The Pirates ended the season with a 10-19 record.
“Obviously, the ultimate goal in the beginning is to get [to the NWAC tourney],” Rollman said. “We’ve been through so many ups and downs throughout this season.
“Losing a guy like Eli’Sha Sheppard [to injury], our glue guy, a leader who makes our guys more relaxed, more confident — not having him around was tough.
“For guys to battle through that, to continue to play hard and continue to stick together, I have a lot of gratitude for these guys.”
Rollman said the loss of another player to injury, freshman guard Keith Seldon, also had an impact.
“Keith going down too, our other main ball handler, made us mix and match and move things around. And that can be difficult for a 17- or 18-year old to learn to play a new position, a new role.
“There were plenty of times where we could have fallen flat, a few three-game losing streaks, but to pick it up and get here, it’s a great experience for the freshman to soak up.”
Having served as interim head coach this season, Rollman said he would interview soon for the head coaching job with the goal of continuing to lead the Pirates.
“It’s a great place to build a program and I think we have a solid foundation set,” Rollman said. “Nothing is changing on my want to be here or my will to be here.
“We have a good young core coming back, and now they know what it’s like to make the tournament.”
Green River 89, Peninsula 66
PC 32 34 — 66
GR 48 41 — 89
Peninsula (66) — Harris-Williams 24, Kahapea 21, Cleveland 10, Kelly 6, Buckley 4, Moore 1, Thomas, Glover, Angevine.
Green River (89) — Sommerfield 24, Baker 22, Wetmore 20, Cawley 11, Hollis 3, Mims 4, Aslanyan 3, Carlsen 2, Wiebe, Staheli, Gillies, Cox.
Compiled from team reports. Email scores to [email protected] or phone 360-417-3525.