By Michael Carman
Peninsula Daily News
PORT ANGELES — Port Angeles started hot, connecting on four of its first five shots from the floor, including three 3s, in building a 22-4 lead against Kingston after one quarter, and kept the Buccaneers relatively cool in a 55-33 Olympic League 2A girls basketball win Friday.
And while the Roughriders didn’t exactly cruise unscathed to the finish, especially considering the hard fall junior post Aeverie Politika took late in in the game, Port Angeles was clearly in control — never allowing Kingston to close within single digits.
“We got off to a good start early, we scored points early and got up on them,” Riders coach Michael Poindexter said. “We did that at their place, too. And they came back, just like they did in that game. They have talent, a great passing team, a great shooting team. They have at least three players who can shoot the 3 well. We were really pleased with our defense tonight, they were outstanding. We gave up some stuff but they are a good team.”
Mikkiah Brady hit two early 3s and had eight points within the first 2:09 of the contest as Port Angeles ran out to a 13-2 lead.
Millie Long, Madison Cooke and Cheyenne Wheeler kept up that prolific scoring pace in the opening frame.
The Riders eventually came back down to earth, turning the ball over 10 times in the second quarter and only putting five more points on the scoreboard to lead 27-14 at the break.
Turnover issues continued in the third, when Port Angeles gifted the basketball to the Buccaneers eight more times.
“That group got us started offensively, but that group got into a turnover factory in the second and third quarters,” Poindexter said.
“I told the kids [Thursday] that one of the dangers against Kingston is they want to play faster than anybody else in the league. One of the dangers in playing a team that wants to play fast is to you try to keep up with them. We play fast too, but it wasn’t good for us tonight. We turned the ball over in transition way too many times, made passes we couldn’t make and then we got tired. Less tired than they were, they were dead at the end.
“We have to pull back, I still want to run, but we have to pull back a notch and make better decisions. But we are getting better.”
Defense carried the Riders through those rough patches, as Port Angeles caused 17 Kingston giveaways in that same second- and third-quarter time frame.
The Riders grew their advantage to as much as 20 — 40-20 with 3:15 to go in the third — before the Bucs put together an 8-2 run to close out the quarter trailing 42-28.
“In that third quarter I thought we could have built up a substantial lead, but we gave it back to them and they were able to stay in that 14-point range.”
Besides Politika’s scary fall late in the fourth, Kingston senior Lily Beaulieu injured her right knee on a made layup at the third-quarter buzzer.
Beaulieu’s injury came on a non-contact play, but the game saw substantial amounts of physical contact especially on drives to the rim by both squads.
“I thought we maintained our composure with the physicality,” Poindexter said. “We sometimes wilt at it. And this was a test — probably our most physical games since our games with East Valley Spokane [at state] in 2014 and last year [at state regionals]. And really the one from 2014 reminded me of this game.
“And I thought our kids, sometimes we back off, sometimes we wilt, and I thought we stepped forward. And I thought we did it in a classy way.”
The Riders controlled the offensive and defensive glass with Devin Edwards in double figures in rebounding.
Poindexter praised Natalie Steinman’s play defensively.
“Natalie Steinman, that was maybe her best game of the year defensively,” he said. Man, that kid can fly around the court.”
Long led Port Angeles with 12 points, Brady had 11 and Wheeler scored 11 off the bench.
Fellow freshmen Cooke and Jaida Wood joined Long in the starting lineup as senior Gracie Long had just returned from a college visit and Wheeler was coming back from illness.
The Riders (9-1, 14-3) have sewn up at least the Olympic League’s No. 2 seed and at least one home game in the district tournament. A win in Tuesday night’s showdown in Poulsbo with North Kitsap (10-0, 15-3) would square the teams in the standings with one league game left for each side.
Port Angeles 55, Kingston 33
Kingston 4 10 14 5— 33
PA 22 5 15 13— 55
Kingston (33) — Denning 8, Siebers 6, Gomez 6, Beaulieu 6, Halady 4, Hiner 3.
Port Angeles (55) — M. Long 12, Wheeler 11, Brady 11, Cooke 8, Wood 5, Edwards 5, Steinman 3, Olsen, Politika, Wenzl, Gray.