PORT ANGELES — The Peninsula College men’s basketball team struggled a bit earlier this season closing games out.
Well, that monkey is certainly off their backs after a massive come-from-behind win over the No. 1-ranked team in the Northwest Conference.
The Pirates came from 14 points down in a wild second half to nip a 23-1 Skagit Valley team 74-73.
“This is big. It’s big,” said Pirates coach Donald Rollman.
Rollman said the Pirates won despite several things going against them — starter Jaylin Reed getting in foul trouble (he fouled out with 9 minutes left in the game), poor free-throw shooting (the Pirates shot 6 for 14 from the line) and some missed layups.
“We missed some gimmies and free throws,” Rollman said. “Ultimately, we defended better in the second half.
“This all starts in practice. We push them hard in practice,” Rollman said. “This was just a battle. You come to PC to play games like this.”
The heroes of the night were Davien Harris-Williams, who hit five 3-pointers in the second half and scored 26 points in the final 20 minutes and Sequim’s Nate Despain, who hit two free throws with 49 seconds left to make the score 74-73, giving the Pirates their first lead since the opening minutes of the game.
Peninsula was able to hold on over the Cardinals’ final three possessions to win.
“I was feeling it a little bit,” Harris-Williams said of his amazing second half. “My guys were finding me too.”
“[This game] just goes to show how hard we work every day in practice,” Harris-Williams said.
Despain echoed the sentiment that winning a big game like this begins in practice.
“A lot of is hard work in practice. We have unbelievable practices,” Despain said.
“There’s no words to describe a win like this. It’s amazing,” he said.
The first half was sluggish, but the Pirates managed to stay in contact with the Cardinals, entering the break down 38-28.
In the second half, the game erupted into a thrilling back-and-forth battle. Skagit went ahead 51-37 early in the second half, appearing to gain control of the game.
Peninsula came roaring back, going on a 24-11 run to make the score 62-61 with nine minutes left. Harris-Williams scored 19 of the Pirates’ 24 points during that run as Skagit simply had no answer to stop him either scoring from outside or on drives to the basket.
The Pirates scored 31 points in the first 10 minutes of the second half, a scorching offensive show that got them back in the game. Peninsula ended up scoring 46 in the second half, shooting 53 percent from the floor and making eight 3-pointers over the final 20 minutes.
The Cardinals were able to open the lead back up to 73-67 with 3:18 left in the game. Harris-Williams hit his sixth 3 of the game to make it 73-70, then he set up Malik Moore with an assist inside to make it 73-72 with 1:55 left.
The Pirates got two straight stops on defense. With 49 seconds left, Despain grabbed a rebound on a Cardinals’ miss and was fouled, setting up what turned out to be the game-winning free throws.
Other than Despain’s clutch makes, the Pirates struggled mightily from the free-throw line. But their defense saved them as they held Skagit Valley scoreless over the final three-plus minutes of the game.
After Despain gave the Pirates the lead, Moore got a steal on defense and was fouled, but missed his free throw to give the ball back to the Cardinals. On the Cardinals’ next possession, Harris-Williams got another steal and was fouled with 5.8 seconds left, but he missed his free throws, giving the ball back to Skagit Valley with enough time for a shot.
Sure enough, the Cardinals were able to get off a good-looking desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer by Anthony Iglesia, but it hit off the side of the rim to end the game. The shot looked good from the sideline, but Despain, covering Iglesia on the shot, thought it looked slightly off-line from his angle.
“I was hoping it wouldn’t go in, honestly,” he said.
Harris-Williams finished the game with 32 points. Despain had three 3-pointers and had 15 points. Moore had 10 points and nine rebounds. Former Port Angeles Roughrider Gabe Long hit a 3-pointer in the first half and assisted on one of Despain’s 3-pointers.
The win is not only huge as far as beating one of the NWAC’s elite squads, it was actually important for the Pirates as far as their playoff situation. A loss would have put them in a three-way tie for third and in real jeopardy of not making the postseason. The win puts the Pirates all alone in third place in the North Division at 7-3 (17-5 overall), just one game behind both Skagit Valley and Everett for first place.
Peninsula plays Saturday at Olympic (2-8, 5-19).
Peninsula 74, Skagit Valley 73
Skagit Valley 38 35 — 73
Peninsula 28 46 — 74
Skagit Valley (73) — Iglesia 21, Thomas 18, Santana 12, HallSeriven 6, Dutroney 6, Chappell 6, Isakson 2, Sheldon 2.
Peninsula (74) — Harris-Williams 32, Despain 15, Moore 10, Reed 4, Artis 4, Torres-Kahapea 4, Long 3, Gurske 2.
Sports Editor Pierre LaBossiere can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected].