SEQUIM — An onslaught of third quarter steals and layups allowed Port Angeles to brush off a slow first half and power past rival Sequim 60-33 in an Olympic League 2A Division girls basketball win.
At the break the Roughriders trailed the Wolves 20-16, a far cry from the team’s first matchup in December when Port Angeles shutout Sequim 21-0 in the first half on the way to a 44-17 win.
The Wolves are a much better team than that early-season egg let on and showed it against the Riders.
“We were able to bounce back and forth between the defenses we wanted to show them and we played really tough defensively,” Wolves coach Larry Brown said.
“We got rebounds when we needed them and our shots were falling the whole time. [Port Angeles] came out in their variation of the 2-3 zone and it didn’t really put too much on our girls. We were able to get to spots and hit players. And defensively, we were lights out, we played our best defensive half of the year.”
Jayla Julmist and Abby Schroeder each hit two 3-point baskets and Bobbi Sparks came off the bench with three straight baseline drives to put Sequim up 20-14 with 3 minutes until halftime.
“She gave us a big-time increase of speed and she scored like three layups in a row for us,” Brown said of Sparks.
Port Angeles coach Michael Poindexter said his team was a little too tight in the opening frames.
“We weren’t relaxed at all,” he said. “We were real tentative, the crowd might have had something to do with it. Sequim played hard, they played well, we thought they would. They knocked down some shots early. We knew we weren’t going to hold them scoreless in the first half.
“But I was fine. We tried some new defenses in the first half, particularly in the second quarter. But our problem was tentativeness and tightness. Individual kids not feeling confident in their shot.”
The Riders went into their tried-and-true 1-3-1 zone defense after halftime and the results were immediate — Port Angeles forced 12 Wolves turnovers on the way to outscoring Sequim 29-4 in the third quarter.
“We just talked about relaxation at halftime,” Poindexter said. “Relax, trust, your game. And then pick up some points in transition to give you confidence. And we came out in the 1-3-1 which the kids love. It’s their favorite defense. We need to get more versatile, but you can see why its their favorite defense.”
Madison Cooke was huge in Port Angeles’ comeback. She made three straight steals in the final portion of the first half to give the Riders some confidence that seemed to carry over into the big third quarter.
“I think it set the tone for everybody,” Cooke said of the uptick in defense. “It was like, ‘It’s time to play.”
“Madi Cooke really sparked us starting in the second quarter,” Poindexter said. “We needed a kid playing with some reckless abandon. And then Millie [Long] and Gracie [Long] came on and Cheyenne [Wheeler] and Jaida [Wood].
“Madi really was the spark and it was awesome. Everybody came around.”
Cooke scored 12 of her game-high 19 points in the third quarter and the Long sisters scored five apiece, including back-to-back steals and runout layups by Millie as the Riders turned a four-point deficit into a 10-point lead, 32-22, midway through the third.
Millie Long finished with 14 points and Gracie added eight.
“Millie plays so hard, she brought a lot of motivation, so did Gracie,” Cooke said. “They played hard on defense and passed the ball well.”
Port Angeles also received some strong play defensively and on the glass from Devin Edwards.
“Devin played great, she got a lot of rebounds,” Cooke said. “Control the rebounds, control the game.”
Brown said his team knew what was coming defensively from Port Angeles in the third quarter.
“We knew they were going to come out and 1-3-1 us, and they do a really good job of that. Cheyenne up at the top is a ball hawk, she’s lengthy, she can fly around.
“We are a young group and to be able to bounce back and fight off those turnovers is an uphill slope. That’s how the momentum factor works, they get a couple of big steals and everything we had stops and we turn five possessions into 10 points for them and that hurts.
“And that’s kind of, we’ve given up a quarter a game. I’d like to see that go down to about half a quarter a game and we can really compete. I told the girls that’s our best game. Even with the bad third quarter, that’s our best game overall. PA is a really good team, Poindexter is a great coach. I told the girls we are right there. We’re more cohesive than we’ve been.”
With the win, Port Angeles (6-1, 10-3) remains a game back of first-place North Kitsap (7-0, 11-3). The Riders visit Bremerton (0-7, 0-13) on Tuesday.
Sequim (2-4, 4-7) is in a tie for fourth with Olympic (2-4, 4-9). The Wolves travel to third-place Kingston (4-2, 10-4) on Tuesday.
Port Angeles 60, Sequim 33
PA 12 4 29 15— 60
Sequim 11 9 4 9— 33
Port Angeles (60) — Cooke 19, E. Long 14, G. Long 8, Wood 7, Wheeler 6, Edwards 4, Politika 2, Gray, Olson, Wenzl, Steinman, Brady.
Sequim (33) — Julmist 8, Sparks 6, Schroeder 6, Wiker 5, Grasser 3, Glasser 3, Porter 2, Aliseda 1, Dietzman.
Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or at email@example.com.