SILVERDALE — Early on in a Dec. 8 matchup with Gig Harbor, it looked as though Central Kitsap would be on the receiving end of a blowout.
The Tides (2-2) opened the game on a 15-2 run, seeming as if they could not miss a shot. Meanwhile, the Cougars (2-3) struggled in moving the ball around and getting good looks at the basket.
Slowly but surely, Central Kitsap chipped away at the lead, sparked in part by sophomores Ja’Quirious Conley and Colby White coming off the bench to play big offensive roles. But the Tides would ultimately take command down the stretch, narrowly defeating their South Sound Conference opponent, 58-54.
Kaden Garnaas scored a game-high 18 points and led the charge early for Gig Harbor. The junior guard scored on consecutive 3-point attempts and a third basket on a layup as part of his team’s early run.
“We came out flat,” said Central Kitsap head coach Scott McMinds. “Their zone disrupted what we wanted to do, we didn’t shoot the ball well, and we didn’t move the ball well. They capitalized and did a lot of good things. I give a lot of credit to Gig Harbor and their game plan.”
But after the game settled down, Central Kitsap would have a response. Seniors Zion Archer and Austin McMinds began the comeback, combining to score all 13 of the Cougars’ points in the first quarter.
The duo was aided by White, who hit a pull-up jumper to open the second quarter and Conley who drilled a three from the left wing to pull Central Kitsap within four. Archer then scored two easy layups in a row on passes from White and Dominic Telemaque. Just like that, the game was tied at 22.
“Two games in a row, we’ve given up quite a few points from the beginning and had to play from behind,” said McMinds. “It’s not what we want to do, for sure.”
By halftime, Gig Harbor had reopened a seven-point lead and did its best to keep the Cougars at bay. But Central Kitsap was game for another comeback, and the breakthrough came midway through the fourth quarter.
After Archer hit a pair of free throws, McMinds came up with a steal on Gig Harbor’s next possession and cruised down the court for a layup. Telemaque follows suit with another steal and layup and for the first time all evening, Central Kitsap had a lead with 2:17 to play.
“I think they played well in spurts,” said McMinds. “I think they showed a lot of grit coming back.”
But Drew Parrish, who also scored 18 points for Gig Harbor, scored key baskets down the stretch that ultimately put his team over the top. As an inside presence, Central Kitsap had difficulty in keeping him away from the basket. His field goal from the low post gave back the lead to the Tides in the final two minutes. Parrish then scored a similar basket with a minute remaining to give his team a four-point lead with under a minute to go.
The loss puts the Cougars back under .500 for the season, but early returns have been encouraging. Central Kitsap opened with a terrific effort in a seven-point loss to North Kitsap, a team that is likely headed back to the 2A state tournament. Its other loss came by just three points to Stadium. The Cougars won its South Sound Conference opener on Dec. 6 against Yelm, 61-42.
“That’s the beauty of the game,” McMinds said. “Every night is a new night, every night is a different opportunity. I’m proud of the kids, we’re competing, we’ve got a long way to go and we’ll get better.”
Gig Harbor 58, Central Kitsap 54
GH 19 15 11 13 — 58
CK 13 14 15 12 — 54
Gig Harbor (58) — Garnaas 18, Parrish 18, Gibson 5, Davis 4, McCauley 4, Porter 3, Dempewolf 2, Talent 2, Livingston 2.
Central Kitsap (54) — Archer 12, Conley 12, White 12, McMinds 11, Telemaque 4, Humm 3.
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.