KINGSTON — Things were looking a little grim for Chief Kitsap Academy as the second half of their 1B tri-district game against Puget Sound Adventist got going.
The Sharks led by four and came out strong, hitting four of their first five field goals. They had opened up a 35-27 lead until Bears sophomore Christian Wion-Rathbun sprung to life.
Within a short time, Wion-Rathbun hit a three 3-pointer from the wing, drew a foul and hit both free throws and then hit two more 3-pointers on consecutive possessions. His 11 third quarter points were part of a big run that swung the momentum back in Chief Kitsap Academy’s favor.
“He’s a little floor general out there,” said Chief Kitsap Academy head coach George Hill III. “But he’s also got that spark in him where he can go get you three, four, five threes in a row and that changes game.”
His shooting certainly changed this postseason game, though it still went down to the wire. The Bears maintained a slim lead for most of the fourth quarter and went on to capture a 53-50 victory.
The win give them their first regional berth since 2017 and a district semifinal game at 5 p.m. Thursday at Evergreen Lutheran against Muckleshoot Tribal School. Win or lose, the Bears will play Saturday at Mount Vernon Christian for seeding.
“That’s always been our goal,” said Wion-Rathbun, who finished with a game-high 17 points, “to go to state like we did once before with our old team.”
Both teams started this game slowly; the Bears in particular were a little too amped up early on and occasionally put a little too much heat on a pass or a layup attempt.
“We were one shot and done or we were getting the wrong look,” Hill said. “But we settled in, starting figuring out how we were going to defend and adjusted the personnel.”
However, one Chief Kitsap Academy player started well and that was senior Mateo Sipai. As he did for much of the night, Sipai made plenty of strong drives to the hoop and was able to either to pick up the bucket or draw the foul. Sipai scored seven of his 15 points in the first quarter.
“He’s relentless attacking the basket and he’s definitely our leader as a team,” Hill said. “He leads by example in practice and he’s one of those guys that keeps that youthful energy with us.”
As the game wore on, the Bears defense really clamped down on the Sharks, forcing a high number of turnovers. Their aggressive defense and athleticism allowed them to get into passing lanes quickly and then head up the court for a fast transition. That helped set the stage for the comeback.
“Last year, we were allowing a lot of threes and paint scores,” Wion-Rathbun said. “We had to pick up our defense a lot.”
Josh Bagley stepped up with a couple of big baskets down the stretch, including a 3-pointer with about three minutes left. He also drew the key foul with 18 seconds to go that sent him to the free throw line as Puget Sound Adventist was in the bonus and needed to foul to get the ball back. Bagley hit one of two free throws to put Chief Kitsap up 53-50 to secure at least an overtime session. But the Sharks couldn’t convert on their final possession and the Bears were off to regionals.
It was an exciting moment for a team that features just two seniors and has a large number of underclassmen getting their first taste of the postseason The win extends their season for at least another week and a half, and the two district games and regional game — with the possibility for more — should only help this team grow and mature as a unit for this year and the coming seasons.
“These are my guys,” Wion-Rathbun said. “I grew up with these guys, it’s very exciting.”
Chief Kitsap Academy 53, Puget Sound Adventist 50
PSA 9 16 14 11 — 50
CKA 9 12 19 13 — 53
Puget Sound Adventist (50) — Dominguez 16, Lalji 11, Andino 9, Jacaban 6, S. Bokov 5, A. Bokov 3.