PORT ANGELES — One thing the Port Angeles boys basketball team has shown so far this season is that it appears no lead will be safe for the Roughriders’ opponents.
The Riders began their season by wiping out a late fourth-quarter 13-point lead by Sammamish, primarily by using defensive pressure to score 11 points in 37 seconds.
It was a spectacular start to what should be an interesting season with a mix of important veterans from last season and a bunch of newcomers for the Riders. Port Angeles is coming off an 11-3 record in the Olympic League last year and a second-place finish to perennial powerhouse North Kitsap.
“We have experience, but we also have five players with their first varsity experience,” said coach Kasey Ulin. “This is a good group of kids who want to be coached. They want to be pushed.”
The returning players will be a huge part of the Riders’ plans this year. Port Angeles returns 6-foot-3 Parker Nickerson, who wowed Port Angeles fans with his leaping and dunking ability last year. Nickerson was a scoring machine last season at 20.4 points a game, putting up games of 42, 31 and 27 points.
Nickerson does most of his damage driving to the basket and from 3-point range and makes a powerful one-two punch with Isaiah Shamp, who is listed at 6-5 but plays taller. Shamp uses good footwork for clever and quick moves inside to get most of his points and started the season with a 29-point game against Sammamish.
“Those are two enormous pillars of what we do,” Ulin said. “I think Shamp is one of the best posts in the state. He has soft hands and a variety of moves.” Nickerson, the starting quarterback for the Riders football team, was part of Port Angeles’ team that finished sixth in the state when he was a sophomore.
“He’s really been around the block. He’s been through some important battles. In a couple of weeks, he’ll be in basketball shape,” Ulin said.
The Riders also bring back point guard Gus Halberg, who had a huge game against Sammamish, especially in the fourth quarter. Kason Albaugh will also play the point. Ulin said Albaugh is greatly improved and he considers him an “X” factor for the Riders.
Also returning is Dallas Dunning, who gives the Riders more size at 6-5. Ulin said that Dunning has put on 15 pounds this year. Also returning is big, bruising forward Ezra Townsend who does a lot of the little things for the team such as defend and rebound.
“He’s an ultimate leader. He’s the heartbeat of our team. He does so many things,” Ulin said.
As far as newcomers, Ulin said fans should keep an eye on Keatyn Hoch. Other newcomers such as William Ruddell and Donovan Heins, just a sophomore, made giant contributions during Port Angeles’ comeback against Sammamish.
Other newcomers include Blake Sohlberg, an athletic 6-2 guard and fantastic football wide receiver, and Matthew Miller, who is a big soccer star for the Riders.
Ulin said North Kitsap is ranked No. 2 in the state and is yet again the heavy favorite to win the Olympic League and 3A Bainbridge a tough opponent. “North Kitsap is really head and shoulders at the top of the league,” Ulin said.
He said it will be a big battle for second with Port Angeles in the mix. He said Bremerton will be tough, Sequim is improved and Kingston and Olympic should be tough. The Riders get a good test Friday night at Bremerton.
“We gotta get a lot better in a week,” Ulin said.