SEQUIM — For a team that starts three freshmen and has two more playing long minutes as reserves Neah Bay displayed a wealth of poise in a 59-49 win over Sequim on Tuesday.
It doesn’t hurt that the young Red Devils (3-0), the No. 1-ranked 1B girls’ team in the state’s first RPI rankings, can rely on the leadership and dynamic play of pint-sized point guard Gina McCaulley, arguably the best ball-handler and press defender on the North Olympic Peninsula.
McCaulley poured in 22 points to lead all scorers.
“She had an amazing game,” Wolves coach Larry Brown said. “she pretty much single-handedly broke us down. She played great. Neah Bay is a a young fast team that is aggressive going after the ball. They beat us to pretty much every 50-50 ball and those are just tough games to win.”
The Red Devils went ahead three minutes into the game on a 3-point basket by freshman Ruth Moss and never relinquished the lead in taking down the Wolves freshman and sophomore dominated-squad.
“I thought we came out strong with our press,” Neah Bay coach Tony McCaulley said. The Red Devils were up by as much as 15-4 in the first quarter and led 18-13 after the first eight minutes.
“Our conditioning has to get a little better, we played so hard that we fizzled there a little bit,” McCaulley said.
Sequim trailed 32-21 at halftime and the Red Devils’ lead grew to 38-24 midway through the third.
But a 9-0 Wolves’ run, keyed by five points by sophomore Jessica Dietzman, pulled Sequim within five, down 38-33 with 1:30 to play in the third.
“I thought we would take the game over at that point,” Brown said. “The game was up for grabs and we had the momentum. We’ve been so close late in our last couple games, got within two against Bainbridge and within five [against Neah Bay], but we haven’t been able to completely regroup right now.
“I think that’s the youth, at some points we had four freshman and a sophomore out on the floor together.”
McCaulley said Sequim’s run was keyed by the Wolves ability to switch screens and stay with their man in man-to-man defense.
“We stalled a little bit when they started switching it up with us, switching screens on us, so we went to a different offense got some layups and kind of broke that run up.
He liked the resolve and response his team showed when Sequim threatened to take the lead.
Neah Bay closed out the third quarter with a long jumper by Moss and a layup basket with two seconds left for a 42-33 lead heading to the fourth.
“They kept composed when Sequim did comeback, I liked that,” McCaulley said. “For a young team, they didn’t crack. We settled down, we ran our offense. We’re pretty even-keeled, I like that part of us. That was probably the best man-to-man defense we have seen. Sequim played us pretty tough. That’s good for us, good for our offense to get those looks.”
Gina McCaulley carried the load offensively for the Red Devils in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 of her 22 points in the final frame on a variety of layups as Neah Bay held the Wolves at bay.
Hope Glasser warmed up for Sequim scoring 10 of her 14 points in the fourth quarter but McCaulley had the answers and the Wolves never came closer than seven points down the stretch.
“We were a little too one-dimensional with our offense at times in terms of looking inside,” Brown said.
“But overall it’s a good game for us to play against that pressure.”
Sequim (1-0, 2-2) played at rival Port Angeles last night (late) and will play in a tournament in Seaside, Ore., on Friday and Saturday.
Neah Bay (3-0) will visit La Conner on Friday and Darrington on Saturday.
Neah Bay 59, Sequim 49
Neah Bay 18 14 10 17— 59
Sequim 13 8 12 16— 49
Neah Bay (59) — McCaulley 22, C. Swan 9, Moss 9, P. Swan 8, Greene 5, Yallup 3, Svec 2.
Sequim (49) — Glasser 14, Dietzman 8, Wiker 7, Julmist 7, Porter 4, Schroeder 4, Grasser 3, Sparks 2, Aliseda 1.
Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or at [email protected]