PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles boys basketball team simply couldn’t buy an outside shot in the first half.
And that should’ve scared Bremerton, because after shooting 1-for-13 from 3-point range in the first half and with premier post player Isaiah Shamp having to sit long minutes due to foul trouble, the Roughriders went into the break down just 31-30.
Sure enough, those 3-pointers started falling in bunches in the second half as Kason Albaugh hit five bombs, four in the third quarter, and Parker Nickerson added two more in a thrilling 72-60 win over the Knights on Thursday night.
The game meant a lot, as it guarantees the Riders a second-place finish in the Olympic League at 11-3 (14-6 overall), a fourth-place seed in the bidistrict tournament and a home playoff game at 6 p.m. Tuesday. If the Riders win that game, they automatically qualify for the 2A state tournament. They will find out late Sunday who they will play.
Bremerton came in to the game tied for second place in the Olympic League and ranked No. 7 in Ratings Percentage Index.
“Shooters gotta keep shooting,” Albaugh said. “You can’t let misses make you timid.”
“We’re not really a live and die by the 3-point shot kind of team,” said coach Kasey Ulin. But he said all of the shots that the Riders missed in the first half were good shots in the rhythm of the offense. They simply weren’t falling for the first 16 minutes.
Ulin said Gus Halberg was huge in the first half, grabbing offensive rebounds off the misses to help keep the Roughriders in the game. Halberg had at least five rebounds in the first half to go along with four steals. He also hit a shot right before the halftime buzzer to keep the Riders down by just one point entering the break. Ulin also said Ezra Townsend had a solid game having to play long minutes.
“I’m extremely proud of Kason,” Ulin said of Albaugh’s persistence. “Once that first one [3-pointer] went in, that hoop got big.”
Albaugh and Nickerson’s efforts, along with Halberg, countered Bremerton’s Jalen Davis, who hit five 3-pointers himself and finished with 29 points. The Riders kept Davis, the son of Knights coach and former University of Pacific Division I player Miah Davis, relatively contained in the second half after he erupted for 18 points in the first half.
With the score tied at 33-all early in the third quarter, Albaugh went unconscious. He hit four straight 3-pointers in less than four minutes as the Riders quickly opened up a 45-33 lead. Albaugh, who had one point at halftime, finished with 14 points in the third quarter.
Ulin said what he was most excited about during that run was the stops that the Riders were getting on defense.
“We’re really good when we get multiple stops,” Ulin said
The Riders made some adjustments at the half, zeroing in on Davis, who scored zero points in that big third quarter. Albaugh said the Roughriders were determined to make him work for every point.
“We didn’t want to give him anything easy,” he said.
Davis started hitting shots again in the fourth and the Knights managed to claw back into the game, down just 56-51 with 5:20 left. The Riders responded with a three-point play on a beautiful one-handed power move to the basket by Shamp and a pair of 3-point shots by Nickerson and Albaugh. Halberg added another three-point play on a bucket and a foul, essentially sealing the victory at 70-59 with 1:25 left to play.
Halberg finished with 12 points.
The victory moved Port Angeles to No. 9 in the state in RPI and dropped Bremerton to No. 10. League champion North Kitsap is No. 4.
Port Angeles 72, Bremerton 60
Bremerton 15 15 10 20— 60
Port Angeles 13 18 19 22— 72
Port Angeles (72) — Albaugh 22, Nickerson 21, Halberg 12, Shamp 7, Dunning 6, Sohlberg 2, Townsend 2.