PORT ANGELES — You wouldn’t know it from the final score, but the Port Angeles Roughriders rematch with the Bremerton boys basketball team was actually pretty competitive until early in the second half.
Bremerton beat the Riders 65-59 earlier this season. On Tuesday, the Port Angeles boys were in control early, but after Bremerton hit five 3-pointers in the second quarter, the Roughriders couldn’t quite shake the Knights and held just a 32-24 lead with 6 minutes left in the third quarter.
Then the Riders showed what they can do when they really turn the screws tight on defense. Port Angeles went on a 25-1 run over the next 11 minutes and allowed a total of nine points in the entire second half, going on to win in a blowout 68-31.
“When we’re committed and engaged defensively, we’re really good,” said Port Angeles coach Kasey Ulin.
“Tonight was our best stretch defensively all year,” he said.
“We held them to nine points in the second half. That’s a top 20 team in the state in RPI,” Ulin said.
Ulin said the difference between this game and the Jan. 10 loss to Bremerton was defensive intensity. The Riders effectively forced Bremerton into long half-court sets trying to get the Knights’ outside shooters open. Ulin also thought the Riders tried to drive the ball too much on offense earlier this season against Bremerton.
Getting a bit of vengeance against the Knights felt good, said guard Dru Clark, who played a huge role in the win.
“I was just super pumped to play these guys,” Clark said. “I can’t believe we lost to Bremerton.”
With the win, the Riders locked up second place in the Olympic League 2A Division with a 9-2 record in league. Technically, Port Angeles could still tie North Kitsap for the league championship if the Vikings lose their final league game. But North Kitsap’s final game is tonight against last-place North Mason, so it’s unlikely the Vikings will lose. With the second-place finish, the Riders will get to host a district playoff game on Feb. 13.
Clark’s big shots
Port Angeles completely dominated the first quarter, outscoring the Knights 17-5 in the opening 8 minutes. Bremerton likes to shoot 3-pointers — the Knights took at least 25 shots from beyond the arc — and the Knights drilled five 3-pointers in the second quarter to keep it a game, cutting the lead down to 30-22.
Clark sparked the Riders’ big explosion. He began by hitting a basket to end the first half. In the beginning of the second half, he drew a charge on the defensive end to take a basket away from the Knights.
With the Knights down just 32-24, Clark hit a 3-pointer from the corner to make it 35-24. After a quick Port Angeles steal, Clark hit another 3-pointer from the exact same spot 10 seconds later to make it 38-24. Suddenly, a close game was blown wide open.
Ulin agreed Clark’s shots were a huge part of sparking the Riders.
“He’s an amazing shooter. He does not miss in practice,” Ulin said.
Clark ended up with 13 points, making a total of three 3-pointers in the game.
Clark said the corner isn’t actually his favorite spot.
“I like the top more than the corner.” he said.
Clark also wasn’t aware that the Riders’ run reached 25-1 at one point. “That’s crazy,” he said.
One of the Riders’ biggest weapons is balance and sure enough, Port Angeles had five players with at least nine points.
Damen Ringgold led the Riders with 15 points. Beyond his points, Ringgold made a number of clutch plays early. It seemed like every time the Knights threatened to make a game of it, Ringgold came up with a rebound or got fouled and then hit his free throws. At one point, Ringgold was 6 for 6 on free throws.
John Vaara had 11 points and was a force on the boards. Anton Kathol had 10 points, getting much of his scoring off inbounds plays that Bremerton simply couldn’t stop. Casey Cobb finished with nine.
Port Angeles (9-2, 14-5, No. 7 RPI) finishes its regular season at 7:30 p.m. today in Port Angeles against Sequim (6-5, 11-8), which needs a win to lock up a postseason berth.
Port Angeles 68, Bremerton 31
Brem. 5 17 3 6 — 31
PA 17 15 15 21 — 68
Bremerton (31) — Moore 11, Washington 9, Wilson 7, Taylor 3, Retome 1.
Port Angeles (68) — Ringgold 15, Clark 13, Vaara 11, Kathol 10, Cobb 9, Dunning 5, Johnson 5.
Sports Editor Pierre LaBossiere can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected].