EVERETT — For three quarters, the Peninsula basketball women put on a defensive clinic against Highline that threatened to shatter all sorts of Northwest Athletic Conference records.
Then, for the fourth quarter, they had to hang on tight as Highline mounted a furious comeback that actually made things nervous in the final two minutes of their NWAC Tournament opener at Everett Community College.
Peninsula won Saturday against the Thunderbirds 53-40. That score is a bit deceptive as the Pirates actually built up a lead of 41-16, and that was a fourth-quarter score.
The Pirates played Sunday night against a powerful Wenatchee Valley team after press deadline in the NWAC’s Elite Eight. You can go online at www.peninsuladailynews.com for results of that game or read about it in Tuesday’s sports section.
For the first 30 minutes of the Highline game, the Pirates held the Thunderbirds to an incredible 11.8 percent shooting (6 for 51) from the floor and 1 for 18 shooting from beyond the 3-point line.
Highline improved on those numbers, but at the end of the game, the Pirates’ defensive stats were still outstanding. They held Highline to 19.7 percent shooting (13 for 66) and 10.2 percent from beyond the arc (5 for 26).
The record for points defensively in an NWAC Tournament game is 31 and it looked like the Pirates were going to shatter that record for the first three quarters.
“We played pretty good defense. Then in the fourth it got loose from us a little. We started to play nervous,” said coach Alison Crumb.
The Pirates had a lead of 16-2 after the first quarter and held the Thunderbirds under 10 points at the half, taking a 23-9 lead into the break.
In the fourth, Highline started hitting its shots finally, scoring 24 points and actually cutting the lead down to nine points — 47-38 — with 1:30 left in the game, enough time to mount a miracle comeback.
But, the Pirates were clutch from the free-throw line, making six straight free throws in the final 90 seconds to ice the game.
Crumb said the Pirates panicked a little in the fourth quarter as the Thunderbirds went on a 22-6 run, making two straight 3-pointers late to get the lead under 10.
“You have to remember how young they are and that this was their first playoff game. [But], we’ll take a win in March any day,” Crumb said.
Sunshine Vicente led the Pirates with 15 points and eight rebounds, while Kuutuuq Danner scored 13 and Leilani Padilla nine. Kameron Bowen had 10 rebounds while Ashlynn Sharp had seven rebounds and three steals.
Peninsula (19-8 overall) went for its 20th win and a possible trip to the NWAC Final Four against the No. 2 seed out of a very powerful East Region in Wenatchee Valley. Wenatchee Valley entered that game with a 25-5 record overall.
Crumb said the Pirates are embracing the role of underdog.
“They’re [Wenatchee Valley] deep, athletic, tough,” she said Crumb. “This is going to be our biggest challenge.”
Peninsula 53, Highline 40
Highline 2 7 7 24 — 40
Peninsula 16 7 18 12 — 53
Highline (40) — Kremers 12, Sinclair 6, Demic 5, Estabillo 4, Kaawa 3, Lafitaga 3, Jackson 3, Conwell 2, Allen 2.
Peninsula (53) — Vicente 15, Danner 13, Padilla 9, Sharp 6, Luke 4, Williams 2, White 2, Bowen 2.