PORT ANGELES — Re-dedicating themselves to the art of the 2-3 zone, Port Angeles turned defense into instant offense and ran away from Class 3A Bainbridge in the second half for a 71-44 victory in a nonleague girls basketball season opener for both squads.
The Roughriders led 32-30 at halftime and held NCAA Division I Northern Colorado commit Olivia Wikstrom to four first-half points, but the Spartans exploited gaps in the Port Angeles defense and were hitting from the perimeter.
“We were overplaying up [back half of the front court] and we have to bluff that, we have to get out on that, but we have to get back to the corner,” Port Angeles coach Michael Poindexter said. “It was poor 2-3 zone technique that we were coming up, staying too long and not getting back into the corner where No. 35 [Anna Kozlosky] was killing us. And No. 25 [Paige Aichele].
“We addressed that.”
Did they ever.
Port Angeles swarmed Bainbridge to open the third quarter with multiple players forcing numerous Spartans’ turnovers, sharing the ball for scores on fast breaks and draining 3-pointers as the Riders held Bainbridge scoreless for the first 5:05 of the second half.
“The one key to the game — I didn’t have three or four — was transition will win the game, defense and offense,” Poindexter said. “If we get back and don’t let Olivia go coast to coast and make them move the ball [in the halfcourt] and we score in transition we win.”
Back-to-back 3s by Jaida Wood and Bailee Larson put Port Angeles up 47-31 late in the third and the Riders closed out the win in style, with all players who dressed seeing court time.
“Tonight for a first game, we bounced back,” Poindexter said. “I didn’t think we played all that well in the first half. There were some inside gimmes [we missed], we were nervous, adrenaline. But we calmed down and I think the fatigue helped us score inside. It took that nervousness out and it was a little more like practice.
“We have stuff to work on, but that third quarter was a real statement about who they want to be. I really liked the teamwork, the fluid communication and the fact that if you are scouting us we are tough. Who are you going to stop?”
Wood led the Riders with 25 points, including knocking down six 3-pointers.
Millie Long had 18 points, Eve Burke 11 and Larson and Mikkiah Brady each added seven.
Holding down Wikstrom
Wikstrom, a 6-foot-1 guard, averaged 22.6 points per game last season and earned Kitsap Sun girls basketball player of the year honors. She was held to 15 points, nine of them coming the fourth quarter when the game was firmly in the Riders’ control.
“I was thoroughly pleased with holding Olivia Wikstrom to six points through three quarters. She busts out for nine [in the fourth quarter] because she got inside. Bailee and Millie guarded her early, really were aggressive with her and didn’t let her get comfortable.
“At the top of the zone, Bailee and Millie are phenomenal.”
Poindexter said the team has been working on implementing a full-court press defense and haven’t focused much on its 2-3 zone in early practices.
“We have a veteran team and we have to remind them of what we know. And that’s OK. This is the first game. We were giving up 3s to their post players because we weren’t getting out on them in man-to-man. And then we went zone and we were giving up 3s in the corners. And its not OK.”
But Poindexter was thrilled with the third-quarter response shown by his squad.
“I told them afterwards that I’m going to have to give [2016 Port Angeles graduate] Maddie Boe a call later,” Poindexter said. “And I’m going to tell her and its heresy, but I’m going to say this might be as good a 2-3 zone team as the 2015-16 team, and that was a great zone team. We may be that good this year.”
Burke and Larson
Sophomores Burke and Larson were impressive on both ends of the floor. Both players found themselves in good positions defensively, playing the passing lanes for steals and making inside shots in transition and out of half court sets. And both were not hesitant to shoot 3-pointers which will help stretch defenses and create lanes to the rim.
Burke earned two old-fashioned three-point opportunities after absorbing contact down low while still putting the ball in the basket.
“Eve used her body really well and didn’t shy away [from contact],” Poindexter said. “Bailee attacked the rim well and obviously, Millie attacked the rim well.”
Port Angeles (1-0) visits Burlington-Edison, a state tournament team last season, at 3 p.m. Saturday.
Port Angeles 71, Bainbridge 44
Bainbridge 18 12 3 11 — 44
Port Angeles 14 18 19 20 — 71
Bainbridge (44) — Wikstrom 15, Kozlosky 13, Achele 8, Woolever 5, Maguire 2, Byers 1.
Port Angeles (71) — Wood 25, Long 18, Burke 11, Brady 7, Larson 7, Walker 3, McGoff, Stensgard, Brown, Gedelman, Brenkman.
Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or at [email protected].