TACOMA — The Knights down for most of their 2A West Central District III tournament game against Steilacoom, but never out.
Bremerton trailed the Sentinels the entire way until there was 5:04 left in the game when Joseph Wilson’s soaring layup gave them a 50-49 lead. The team had been knocking on the door of a comeback the entire game, but their scoring spurts had been stymied by the Steilacoom’s stellar rebounding and inside offensive game.
But when they got the lead, they didn’t let go. And despite not scoring in the final three minutes of the game, the Knights held on thanks to some ferocious defense. They defeated the Sentinels 54-52 to move within one game of qualifying for regionals. Their next game is at 7:45 p.m. on Friday at Curtis against Franklin Pierce.
“The boys are excited,” said Bremerton head coach Miah Davis, who picked up his second career playoff victory. “I love seeing the smiles on their faces because they just bring me joy.”
The atmosphere was electric, one usually reserved for championship games as the crowd supporting both teams was in a nonstop frenzy. And the action on the court matched their excitement as both teams played fast-paced, highly-entertaining basketball.
The Knights trailed by eight heading into the fourth quarter and the offensive floodgates finally opened for them, scoring all 15 of their points in the first five minutes.
Caleb Washington and D’Angelo Moore hit back-to-back baskets to open the final frame. Steilacoom’s Devin Asaeli, who was a nightmare in the paint all night, then drew a foul and sank both of his free throws to put the Sentinels back ahead by four. But Washington then hit a huge 3-pointer from the top of the key and the deficit was back down to one.
That set the stage for Wilson’s go-ahead bucket with six minutes to go. On the Knights’ next possession, Washington drew a foul and crucially sank both of his free throws. Kimo Retome came up huge with a putback at the 3:04 mark to extend Bremerton’s lead to 54-49.
“It just shows the heart we have,” said Keith Jackmon, one of just two seniors on Bremerton’s young roster. “It shows we don’t want to lose.”
Meanwhile, the defense turned up the heat on Steilacoom. Like sharks that smelled blood in the water, the smaller, quicker Knights began to force more turnovers. And most importantly, they stayed cool, calm and collected at all times despite the intensity of the situation.
“That’s maturity,” Davis said. “I’ve seen maturity coming within them, especially after some of those games earlier in the season. A game like this will hopefully bring them over the hump coming into Friday.”
Asaeli, who had a game-high 21 points for Steilacoom, managed to get to the free throw line a couple more times, but the Sentinels didn’t connect on a single field goal in the fourth quarter as Bremerton forced them to move the ball a little too quick for comfort.
After Bremerton ran the clock down as far as they could on its last possession, Steilacoom got the ball back with seven seconds to go. Wilson nearly sealed the victory with a steal, but he knocked the ball out of bounds in the process. But with just 2.5 seconds left at that point, Steilacoom rushed to get a quick shot and missed. The final buzzer sounded and the Knights bench erupted with joy.
“We grind every situation out and find a way to win,” Davis said.
There were heroes all over the court for the Knights. Moore, who had a team-high 17 points, kept his team afloat by getting ten in the second quarter. Without his performance, the 10-point halftime deficit could have been far worse. Jackmon hit four 3-pointers and finished the game with 12, and Washington and Wilson both saved their best stuff for the final frame. Kaipo and Kimo Retome and Kanye Taylor had to play tough minutes under the boards, but kept grinding away at a Steilacoom team that averages 32 rebounds per game.
“We played small in some areas and then we played big,” Davis said. “We mixed it up and our small guys went in and competed for us and got some turnovers and when we went big we got the rebounds that we needed.”
Bremerton 54, Steilacoom 52
BN 11 13 15 15 — 54
SM 13 21 13 5 — 52
Bremerton (54) — Moore 17, Jackmon 12, Taylor 8, Washington 7, Ki. Retome 4, Wilson 4, Ka. Retome 2.
Steilacoom (52) — Asaeli 21, Devane 12, McDonald 11, Cordon 2, Kelly 2, Lemming 2, Petry 2.