PORT ANGELES — North Kitsap knocked in a few more clutch shots and produced enough stops to claim a 75-65 win over Port Angeles and earn the Olympic League championship in a boys basketball game between two of the top teams in Class 2A.
“Anybody who got to watch this game tonight should be going home happy,” Roughriders coach Kasey Ulin said. “The two best teams in 2A played tonight. They made a couple more plays than us, but for this year, that’s as good as it gets.
“In that type of atmosphere, where you are playing the defending state champions in a state championship game, you have to have focus and effort for 100-percent of the time. And our effort was unbelievable. And our focus was 99.2 percent. We had just a few crucial lapses of focus that they capitalized on and in a game like that when there’s such a fine line it makes a big difference.”
Ulin pointed to the end of the first half, when after absorbing North Kitsap’s (14-2) initial blow, a 15-point first quarter from Vikings star Jonas La Tour, Port Angeles (12-3) had the ball and the chance to tie the game at 32-all at halftime.
“End of half stuff where we take a quick 3 and it leads to a leak out [and layup],” Ulin said. “There were three or four plays during the game where we just lost concentration for a snap second and they took advantage of it and that can be the difference between winning and losing.”
Riders’ junior Xander Maestas did all he could to prevent the final outcome, scoring 28 points to lead all scorers.
“I thought Xander took a huge step tonight,” Ulin said. “In the biggest game of his career, he was the best he’s been all year. He won loose balls, he attacked, he made big plays, he made good decisions. He got tips and deflections, he was great.”
Port Angeles didn’t waver when North Kitsap freshman Cade Orness, son of coach Scott Orness, sank two 3-point baskets in the first two minutes of the fourth quarter and junior Dalton Brockett added a third for a 62-49 lead.
“He’s been doing it all year [making big plays],” Ulin said of Orness. “He already is a player. He’s been around basketball, has a high IQ and he’s going to be a tough player to contend with every time we play.”
Instead, the Riders went on a frenetic 9-0 run to pull within four, sparked by a Dru Clark 3. But North Kitsap had the answer, a 3-pointer by Johny Olmsted to stretch the lead back to seven, 65-58. Olmsted scored 18 of his 21 points in the second half and sank 7 of 10 free throws down the stretch to ice the game.
“Our kids proved what we already knew: we have high-character kids. And we were led by Chase [Cobb] and Dru, the definition of senior leaders. They’ve been committed to doing the right things on and off the floor since they were freshman in order to build this program. They’ll be missed, but they are in our family forever. Same as our other two seniors Adam [Watkins] and Tanner Price.”
Ulin summed up the wild ride of the last 15 months.
“I thought we handled the pandemic better than anybody in the state,” Ulin said. “The day school got canceled March 17, , we had a 30-day challenge going… In a time of no accountability, we went the other way and I thought it would help us here and it did. This was a triumphant year of growth for us and the success that came with it. I’m thankful for the seniors and really excited for where our program is going.
“We have nine guys coming back next year and they have seen the blueprint of what it takes to be elite.”
And the next journey begins with summer ball practices Monday.
North Kitsap 75, Port Angeles 65
NK 23 11 15 24 — 75
PA 14 15 20 16 — 65
North Kitsap (75) — La Tour 27, Olmsted 21, Orness 14, Brockett 10, Bower 3.
Port Angeles (65) — Maestas 28, Dunning 14, Vaara 13, Clark 5, Watkins 2, Wheeler 2, Hall 1, Cobb.
Sports reporter Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-406-0674 or [email protected] news.com.