Neah Bay’s Sean Bitegeko, right, tries to shoot past Tacoma Baptist’s Kyongjin So in second quarter play on Tuesday at Port Angeles High School.                                Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

Neah Bay’s Sean Bitegeko, right, tries to shoot past Tacoma Baptist’s Kyongjin So in second quarter play on Tuesday at Port Angeles High School. Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News

BOYS BASKETBALL: Neah Bay struggles in loss to No. 9 Tacoma Baptist

PORT ANGELES — Neah Bay couldn’t keep control of the basketball in its 68-36 Class 1B Tri-District Tournament opening loss to No. 9 Tacoma Baptist, leading to extra possessions, transition buckets and eventually, a win for the Crusaders on Tuesday night at Port Angeles High School.

The Red Devil boys (12-9) committed 23 turnovers and shot just 14 of 69 (20 percent) from the floor in the loss and now face a loser-out contest today at 4:30 p.m. against Mount Rainier Lutheran (17-8) at Mount Vernon Christian.

“Take care of the basketball,” Neah Bay head coach Gerrard Brooks said. “That’s been our Achilles heel throughout the season with a young team and with a young backcourt. Taking care of the basketball and executing what we know works. We don’t want to continue to revert back to things that we know don’t work and that’s what we did tonight a few times.”

The Red Devils held Tacoma Baptist scoreless for the game’s first 5:07, but the Crusaders put on a fullcourt 1-2-2 press and Neah Bay had difficulties getting the ball across halfcourt, and trouble running offensive sets in the halfcourt.

Tacoma Baptist closed the first quarter on a 9-0 run.

“In the beginning we did well with our defense and our rotations,” Brooks said. “We were doing fine. But we just didn’t take care of the basketball and execute our offense the way we needed to. Hats off to them, they did a great job.”

After a Keith Johnson basket pulled the Red Devils within 11-8 with 6 minutes to go until halftime, the Crusaders went on a 16-0 run over the next 4:58 and led 27-11 at halftime.

Tacoma Baptist’s 6-foot-2 Bradley Swillie heated up in the third quarter, tossing in four 3-point baskets, including three straight makes during an 11-0 run that pushed the Crusaders’ lead to 49-15 late in the third quarter.

“Oh, yeah, he went on a stretch there and was lighting it up,” Brook said.

Swillie finished with 31 points on 11 of 20 shooting, including an astronomical 7 of 12 on 3s.

P.J. Talen added 20 for Tacoma Baptist on 8 of 16 shooting. The Crusaders shot 26 of 48 for the game (54 percent), including 9 of 23 on 3s.

Jay Brunk led Neah Bay with 11, all of them coming in the second half.

Sean Bitegeko and Johnson added nine points apiece.

“It’s funny too, because some of these things with a young team you go over and over and over it with them,” Brooks said. “I know it will click with them. This is the first year of me being back with them and I know we will grow.

Neah Bay has no seniors on its roster, and starts two freshman.

“They’ve progressed really well, I’m proud of them,” They’ve played well, they hustle hard. From the beginning to now, great progression, so I’m very happy about that.”

Tacoma Baptist 68, Neah Bay 36

TB 9 18 26 15— 68

Neah 4 7 10 15— 36

Tacoma Baptist (68) — Swillie 31, Talen 20, So 5, Kitselman 5, Lynn 4, Lakner 3.

Neah Bay (36) — Brunk 11, Bitegeko 9, Johnson 9, Engram 2, Claplanhoo 2, Kallappa 2, Martinez 1, Halttunen, Shaw, Croy, Garcia, Lovik, Martinez.

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Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or at [email protected]

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News Neah Bay’s Captain Claplanhoo, right, tangles with Tacoma Baptist’s P.J. Talen while fighting for a rebound in the second quarter of their district playoff game on Tuesday night in Port Angeles.

Keith Thorpe/Peninsula Daily News Neah Bay’s Captain Claplanhoo, right, tangles with Tacoma Baptist’s P.J. Talen while fighting for a rebound in the second quarter of their district playoff game on Tuesday night in Port Angeles.

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