PORT ANGELES — The Peninsula men shot a scorching 56 percent and hit 15 3-pointers, but still had to bear down on defense in the end to get a couple of crucial stops as a feisty Whatcom team wouldn’t go away in a 105-97 Pirates’ win.
The win hands the Pirates second place in the North Division at 9-5 (19-10 overall). Everett, which the Pirates nearly beat twice, ran away with the division at 13-1.
Early this season, Everett tied the Pirates on a 3-pointer in the final seconds, going on to win in overtime, then later in the season beat the Pirates 87-84. Essentially, the Pirates came within six points of winning the North Division. Now, they prepare for the NWAC Tournament as a No. 2 seed out of the North.
The Pirates torched the nets all game, bouncing back from a game Saturday against Edmonds in which they shot only 32 percent (a 65-53 loss). They did especially well from outside Wednesday, hitting 15 of 23 3-pointers (65.2 percent).
It was the second game of the year the Pirates scored over 100 points and the fifth game of the year over 90 points. After that bad road loss to Edmonds, the Pirates were in a position that they had to win Wednesday to lock up a No. 2 seed.
“For us, it was a playoff-type game,” said coach Mitch Freeman. “We were due for a good shooting night. I thought we played loose and that we trusted each other.”
There was a bunch of player turnover on the team from last year, even more so than usual because several players thought to be returning this year transferred to other schools. Freeman was proud that the team came together to win 19 regular-season games.
Freeman thinks that heartbreaking overtime loss to Everett early in the year actually helped the Pirates in the long run. “That game helped us in close games. We went 5-2 after that” in close games, he said.
After a Cameron Burton bucket with 5:14 left in the game, Peninsula was up 97-78 and eased up on the gas pedal with a seemingly safe lead. The Orcas came storming back, going on a 17-3 run over the next three-and-a-half minutes, making the score 100-95 with 1:35 left to play … and making Peninsula nervous.
Burton came to the rescue, hitting a crucial 3-pointer with 1:20 left to play to open the lead back up to eight points at 103-95. The Pirates clamped down on defense, allowing just a single bucket with 27 seconds left.
Jackson had one of his usual outstanding games. He led the team with 31 points, shooting 5 for 6 from 3-point range and making a number of difficult lay-ins on strong drives to the rim. He added seven assists.
After the Orcas went on their 17-3 run, Jackson said the Pirates, “just played smarter and harder.”
With 105 points scored, several other Pirates had big games.
Burton shot 4 for 6 from 3-point range, ending with 18 points, seven assists and six boards. Trent Warren shot 3 for 7 from 3-point land and scored 16 points with nine rebounds and four assists.
Marky Adams added 10 points, including four points on two second-half dunks, and 10 rebounds. Zach Day, Kaelin Crane and El’sha Sheppard all scored eight points.
Jackson likes the Pirates’ chances at the tournament because of the team’s depth and versatility.
“I feel confident. When we play together, it’s kind of hard to stop us because we have multiple pieces,” he said.
The Pirates learn Sunday who they will play in the NWAC tourney to be held at Everett Community College. There will be a bracket announced in a live-streamed event (at http://www.nwacsports.org/basketball/championship/) with the women’s bracket at 2 p.m. and the men’s at 3 p.m.
The women’s tournament begins on March 8, while the men’s begins on March 10.
NOTE: Neah Bay football and basketball fans probably remember Trazil Lane, an outstanding athlete for Lummi that Neah Bay faced several times in the postseason. Lane had a spectacular game for the Orcas with 35 points and nine rebounds. Lane shot 16 for 24 from the field.
Peninsula 105, Whatcom 97
Whatcom 44 53 — 97
Peninsula 51 54 — 105
Whatcom (97) — Lane 35, Martin 18, Sellgren 15, Clark 13, Lewis 7, Smith 4, Ivanoff 3, Bayne 2.
Peninsula (105) — Jackson 31, Burton 18, Warren 16, Adams 10, Crane 8, Day 8, Sheppard 8, Buckley 6.