POULSBO — Maybe both teams got what they needed Friday night.
The North Kitsap boys’ basketball team charged into its game with South Kitsap and claimed a win over the unbeaten Wolves, loudly warning the rest of the Narrows League that the Vikings — who won 15 in a row last season — are a team to be reckoned with.
South Kitsap dropped its first game of the year, but head coach John Callaghan thinks the stumble may make the Wolves better down the road.
“As painful as it is,” Callaghan said, “sometimes a loss is good for you. You learn more from a loss than you do from a win.”
Callaghan said those words after the Wolves were outrebounded 36-19 by the Vikings; after two big men, Adam Bennett and Jake Beitinger, fouled out near the end of the game; and after the Vikings outscored the Wolves 20-13 in the decisive fourth quarter in order to win 68-61.
“I didn’t think we did a good job of boxing out,” Callaghan said. “And we didn’t keep our composure at the end of the game.”
The Vikings started out hot. Using a balanced attack, they overcame an early 9-2 lead by the Wolves to snatch the lead away.
South’s effort wasn’t helped by two early fouls pinned on starting center Jake Beitinger.
In front of a crowded set of bleachers — the largest crowd of the early season by far — the Vikings managed to swing the momentum their way toward the end of the half, when Thomas Jordan buried a three-pointer to give the Vikings a 15-13 lead.
Seconds later, Jerrod Gonzales hit a three of his own to give North a 20-16 lead going into the second quarter.
The Vikings’ short lead soon evaporated after South Kitsap mounted a second-quarter comeback.
A steal was flung ahead to Brian Cox, who hit the layup to cut the lead to one.
Moments later, Josh Meeker wheeled and hit an inside bucket to tie the game at 32.
But again North charged ahead.
Gonzales dove to the floor to steal the ball, bounced it to guard Josh Mathews, then watched as Mathews passed the ball to Bryan Haupt, who buried the jumper for a five-point Vikings lead.
While North held that lead going into halftime, South cut into it in the third, outscoring the Vikings 16-11 and briefly taking the lead on Brian Cox’s three-pointer from the top of the arc.
In the fourth, South extended the lead as Tyler Mayfield hit a three-pointer and put the Wolves up by three.
But now it was the Vikings’ turn to come back. Josh Mathews answered South’s long-range shooting with a three of his own, Bryan Haupt had back-to-back layups, and the Vikings used late trips to the foul line to take the lead, with a pair of Josh Mathews free throws giving North a 66-61 lead and icing the game.
Both coaches mentioned the rebounding margin as one of the keys to victory.
The Vikings also shot 22 free throws to the Wolves’ 13.
“Every game, they come to play,” Gonzales said of South Kitsap (4-1). “We knew we had to match their intensity, and we did.”
Vikings head coach Bob Fronk was happy with his team (4-2) — its intensity, its rebounding, and its defense. He also gave credit to the fans for packing the North Kitsap auditorium.
And he was especially pleased that the effort came against regional powerhouse South Kitsap.
“We felt that maybe it was our turn,” he said. “South was ripe for an upset, and everything fell into place tonight.”
North Kitsap 20 17 11 20 — 68
South Kitsap 16 16 16 13 — 61
NK— Bryan Haupt 21, Josh Mathews 14, Thomas Jordan 14, Devin Reed 13, Jerrod Gonzales 5, Chad Foster 1.
SK— Adam Bennett 14, Tyler Mayfield 10, Tremaine Curry 8, Jason Boyd 6, Josh Meeker 6, Brian Cox 5, Aaron Metz 4.
NOTES: Bryan Haupt led four Vikings into double figures. He scored 21 points, while Josh Mathews and Thomas Jordan each had 14, and Devin Reed had 13 …. Jordan also had seven rebounds and six assists, and Fronk credits his effort for keeping the Vikings in the game the first half … Adam Bennett led the Wolves with 14 points.