PORT ANGELES — The Peninsula women, playing short-handed against first-place Skagit Valley, still came within a single possession of pulling out a hard-fought victory, but in the end, they didn’t have enough firepower on the floor in a 66-59 loss.
The women played without Yamelei Rodriguez and lost starting guard Anaya Rodisha within minutes to a knee injury. Starting forward Jenise McKnight also played just 20 minutes of the game because of foul trouble and eventually fouled out.
Peninsula and Skagit Valley came into Wednesday’s game tied for first place in the Northwest Athletic Conference’s North Division at 9-2 and both teams have already qualified for the postseason.
Tai Thomas led the Pirates with 16 points. Alicia Dugan hit a pair of crucial 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and scored 15 points. Sephora Yayouss had three 3-pointers and scored 13.
But, Skagit’s depth was too much in this game. The Cardinals’ leading scorer Mandy Hayes only had 11 points, but they had seven players with at least seven points.
Coach Allison Crumb said the team wasn’t making excuses about missing players. She said turnovers were as big of a factor as anything. Peninsula had 19 turnovers for the game compared to 14 for Skagit.
“[Rodisha’s injury] didn’t help. Jenise’s foul trouble obviously didn’t help. I know we were understaffed, but we dug ourselves in a hole with the turnovers,” she said. “You can’t have all those things go against you when you’re playing a team like Skagit.”
“I was really proud of how hard they played,” Crumb said.
Crumb said Rodisha is picking up injuries because she is working so hard on the court.
“Hopefully, we can get her healthy,” she said.
It was the last home game for sophomores Rodisha, McKnight, Dugan, Yayouss, Milan Barnes, Cami Butler and Thomas. Because of a change of format in the postseason this year, Peninsula won’t be hosting a playoff game.
Skagit is now all alone in first place. The Pirates (9-3, 17-8) are now tied for second place in the North Division with Everett with two games left in league, both on the road, against Edmonds on Saturday and Whatcom on March 1.
The game was close until the final seconds, when Skagit made its free throws to open up the final seven-point margin.
Peninsula played behind most of the game, which got off to a furious start. Both teams ran early and Peninsula had 20 points in the first five-and-a-half minutes. The first quarter ended with the Cardinals holding a 26-22 lead.
With three minutes left in the first quarter, Rodisha, who has been roughed up all season with leg and facial injuries, went down with her second knee injury of the season and was not able to return.
After the first quarter, the game slowed down into a defensive struggle. Already shorthanded, Peninsula lost another starter early in the third quarter when McKnight picked up her third foul. The Cardinals held the lead for much of the game, though they were never able to open up a lead bigger than seven points.
The Cardinals went on a 10-0 run to end the third quarter to take a 51-44 lead into the fourth. The Pirates stormed back in the fourth quarter, going on a 12-4 run over seven minutes to take a brief lead. Dugan started the rally by hitting a 3-pointer, then Thomas scored four straight points for the Pirates and the big run was punctuated by Tiffany Smith hitting a huge trey to give the Pirates a 56-55 lead with 3:16 left in the game.
However, it was Peninsula’s final lead of the game. The Cardinals’ Maddy Chau quickly responded with a clutch 3-pointer of her own seconds later as Skagit retook the lead at 58-56.
Skagit was able to stretch the lead to 62-56, but Dugan hit another 3-pointer with 24 seconds left to give Peninsula a fighting chance at 62-59. The Pirates were forced to foul and the Cardinals made four straight free throws down the stretch to ice the game.
Skagit Valley 66, Peninsula 59
Skagit 26 10 15 15— 66
Peninsula 22 13 9 15— 59
Skagit Valley (66) — Hayes 11, Yost 10, Chau 9, Pillman 9, Bryan 8, Jones-Smith 7, Lancaster 7, Ludwig 3, Miller 2.
Peninsula (59) — Thomas 16, Dugan 15, Yayouss 13, McKnight 6, Smith 5, Rodisha 2, Butler 2.
Sports Editor Pierre LaBossiere can be contacted at 360-417-3525 or [email protected]