PORT ANGELES — Veni, vidi, Vikings.
North Kitsap came to play in front of a packed house at Port Angeles, spoiling the Roughriders’ shot at clinching a share of the Olympic League 2A Division boys basketball title with a 51-43 win Tuesday.
Port Angeles (9-2, 13-6) now faces another hurdle in the hunt for a district-playoff home opener, a road game tonight at 7 p.m. at surging Olympic (9-2, 15-4). The Trojans have won five straight games, including a win over North Kitsap, after falling to the Riders 50-39 in Port Angeles on Jan. 5.
A win tonight by the Riders will seal a home game against the South Puget Sound League’s No. 8 seed next Thursday. A loss and Port Angeles will open the playoffs on the road against the SPSL’s sixth seed.
North Kitsap has been league champion or co-champion for four consecutive seasons and that pedigree showed Tuesday against the Riders.
“You have to give credit to North Kitsap, there’s a reason they win championships all the time,” Port Angeles coach Kasey Ulin said. “They were more confident, they were less timid than we were, they were stronger with the ball, they beat us to loose balls, they got on the floor quicker than we did.
“It’s a postseason/league championship-style game. It wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t a finesse game, nobody shot the ball particularly well, they just went after it a little more, played with a little more tenacity than we did.”
The Riders hung tight early in the senior night contest, paced by six first-quarter points from senior Colton McGuffey, and trailed 12-8 after one period despite hitting just 3 of 15 shots.
Eight Port Angeles turnovers in the second quarter allowed the Vikings some easy fast-break opportunities and North Kitsap took control, going on a 12-0 run to close out the final four minutes of the first half and take a 30-15 lead into the locker room.
“North Kitsap played a little more together, executed a little better and played like a league champion that had been there before,” Ulin said.
“They ran the floor, they got extra tips. That all comes back to us playing tentatively. ‘I hope someone gets it’, rather than going out and playing. And big situations can make players hesitant. I thought we were hesitant for three quarters.”
The Vikings’ lead grew to 45-25 after three quarters and as high as 49-25 early in the fourth before the Riders closed out the game with a 15-0 run.
“For how poorly we played, to be down seven or eight points in the last minute of the game it shows me how close we are, but it also shows what you need to do to win a game like that,” Ulin said. “It’s going to be ugly, and it’s about who can out-tough somebody, who plays together longer, who’s willing to dive on the floor and who plays less timidly in these big games.”
McGuffey led Port Angeles with 12 points. Liam Clark added nine.
“Realistically, [McGuffey] was most of our offense in the first quarter. And he rebounded his butt off all night,” Ulin said.
Ulin also recognized the role the team’s three seniors, McGuffey, Andrew Borde and Easton Joslin, played in getting the team to this point.
“Easton, Andrew and Colton started this three years ago when we won two league games when they were freshman,” he said. “To get to a point in your senior year when you get to play for a league championship, no one in Port Angeles would have pictured this three years ago, or last year. I don’t think a lot of people would have pictured this even at the beginning of this season.
“To see these guys, how they’ve worked, how they’ve committed, the sacrifices they’ve made in the offseasons in the weight room and the time together on the court, it’s put them in a position to do some really neat things. And this senior class I’ll remember forever.”
After getting knocked down by North Kitsap, coming back against Olympic becomes the focus.
“Our season is just getting started,” Ulin said. “And of course it would have been great to win tonight, but if we learn from this as this year goes on, we will be better. We have to refocus, win a game [today] and have a home playoff game.
“In the locker room we said if you win one game you get to wear the whites [uniforms] at home again. It was senior night but it wasn’t your last home game. You work all year long to get to the postseason, but to get a home playoff game would be big. Win that game and you are playing for a shot at regionals.”
North Kitsap 51, Port Angeles 43
NK 12 18 15 6— 51
PA 8 7 10 18— 43
North Kitsap (51) — King 10, Humphrey 10,Warren 9, Hecker 7, Zinn 6, Olmstead 5, Chimielewski 4.