AUBURN — A slow start doomed the Port Angeles boys basketball team in its loser-out West Central/Southwest Washington Bi-District game Friday night.
SPSL power Franklin Pierce ended the Roughriders’ bid for their first state tournament appearance in three years behind a 37-22 first half, eventually taking the do-or-die game 69-57.
“When you get down that big to a team like Franklin Pierce in the first half it’s pretty tough to come back,” said Rider coach Wes Armstrong, whose first year in Port Angeles fell two wins short of state.
The Riders, led by a lights out performance from junior Colin Wheeler, certainly tried.
The 6-foot-3 wing scored 16 of his team-high 23 points in the second half as Port Angeles whittled the deficit down to seven points three times in the fourth quarter.
Yet with the Cardinals hitting their free throws in that frame (12-of-13), it proved to be too little too late.
“I was proud of our effort,” Armstrong said. “We did not quit at all. We kept battling until the final horn sounded.”
Port Angeles senior posts Justin Williams and Steve Rogers had 14 and 10 points, respectively, in addition to Wheeler’s offensive outburst.
“[Wheeler] took over,” Armstrong said. “I was very proud of him, the way he played in that second half.”
Franklin Pierce guard Isaiah Hamlin scored a game-high 24 points, while teammate Anthony Bowden added 13 in the win.
The Cardinals’ full court press gave Port Angeles fits in the first half, leading to 14 turnovers and 19 of their 37 points during that time.
The Riders finally got their feet under them in the third quarter, scoring 22 points.
Yet the Cardinals, who netted 18 points of their own in that frame, were still ahead 55-43.
Thanks to the clutch free throw shooting, that turned out to be more than enough.
“We just didn’t execute our press [break] as well as we planned [in the first half],” Armstrong said. “Instead of reversing the ball we just sat there and held the ball above our heads.
“When you do that to a team like Franklin Pierce, they will pick your pocket.”
Port Angeles loses eight seniors, including starters Antonio Stevenson, Williams and Rogers, from a team that finished tied for fourth in the Olympic League.
Despite the loss, Port Angeles finished the season above .500 at 12-11 after winning just three games (3-15) a year ago.
That was good enough to vault the Riders, who won their first playoff game in three years Monday night, to their fourth postseason appearance in five years.
“I was very pleased, especially the way we ended the season,” Armstrong said.
“The guys bought in the program.
“It’s tough to have three coaches in three years. [The seniors] helped us turn the corner and get Port Angeles back on the map in the basketball world.”
Franklin Pierce 69, Port Angeles 57
Port Angeles 9 13 21 14 — 57
Franklin Pierce 17 20 18 15 — 69
Port Angeles (57)
Williams 14, Morgan 8, Ward 2, Wheeler 23, Rogers 10.
Franklin Pierce (69)
Murray 7, Bowden 13, Hamlin 24, Hogan 2, Benton 3, Lee 9, Bolte 6, Mims 2.
GIRLS BASKETBALL KENNEDY 43, PORT ANGELES 41
AUBURN — A four-point halftime lead evaporated in the third quarter, as the Riders were edged out by the second-ranked Lancers in Saturday night’s first round Bi-District game.
“We lost our focus in the third quarter and Kennedy took advantage,” Riders coach Mike Knowles said.
The defending Class 3A state champions out-scored the Riders 15-5 in the period.
Port Angeles battled back in the fourth quarter to pull within two points but simply couldn’t break through for a lead.
Jessica Madison led the Riders with 16 points while Allison Knowles added eight.
Kennedy’s Yaz Fuller, the reigning 3A state player of the year, was held to five points.
But Jasmine Lemon burned the Riders for 13 points, while Alli Madison added 12.
The Riders (18-4 overall) will play Lakes on Wednesday in a loser-out contest at Auburn Riverside High School.
Kennedy 43, Port Angeles 41
Port Angeles 12 13 5 11 — 41
Kennedy 11 10 15 7 — 43
Port Angeles (41)
Madison 16, Knowles 8, S. Jones 6, Jeffers 5, K. Jones 4, Cox 2.
Kennedy (43)Lemon 13, Madison 12, Fuller 5, McLean 4, Williams 6, Trautmann 3.