PORT ORCHARD — An unfortunate sequence of events, some preventable, some not, sunk South Kitsap against South Puget Sound League boys basketball foe Sumner on Dec. 7.
It began with 2:31 left in the game when point guard Riley Escolta drove the lane and scored on a layup to tie the game at 52. But he went down in pain after making the shot; it turned out he was suffering from cramps and would have to come out of the game. With captain Kyler Kelso already out with an injury suffered in the first quarter, it left the Wolves without two important starters.
“It hurt already not having Kyler in there,” said South Kitsap head coach John Callaghan. “Then, losing Riley, that hurt as well. He was playing pretty well and he had to come out. That was a bummer.”
The Wolves missed the front end of a 1 and 1 with a chance to take the lead. The Spartans went back down the court and earned their own trip to the charity stripe. Sumner was given a 54-52 lead courtesy of two free throws by sophomore Mitchell Wolfe, who scored 11 of his 14 points in the final stanza.
Sumner junior AJ Andino then scored his only basket of the game on a pull-up jumper with :11.6 seconds, effectively putting the game out of reach.
“That was the difference in the game,” Callaghan said. “We can’t knock down a free throw and they knocked down their two free throws. That’s a tough way to go.”
But South Kitsap (0-2) showed good growth and improvement from the opener against Olympia. Already a little short on experience and facing a Sumner (3-2) team already playing its fifth game, the Wolves battled back against another team that was aggressive and physical, and opened the game with some hot shooting.
The Wolves opened up a 6-2 lead in the first quarter after a steal by Jackson Kambich, who fed Escolta for the easy bucket. But the Spartans came roaring back with an 11-3 run, which included two 3-pointers by sophomore guard Josh Lear, who finished with a game-high 15 points.
Sumner threatened to run away with the contest in the second quarter, and at one point had opened up a 10-point lead. A late basket by senior Ethan Lamoreaux cut the deficit to eight as the two teams headed for halftime.
Led by Escolta and Kambich, South Kitsap roared out of the gate in the third quarter. Escolta opened with a layup off the dribble and then both he and Kambich both drilled 3-pointers to tie the game at 33. Escolta and Kambich each had a team-high 13 points.
The lead changed hands three times in the third with junior DeAnte Ward putting the Wolves ahead 43-40 after he was fouled on a successful layup. But Sumner’s Cody Tannenberg beat the buzzer with a three of his own to close the Wolves’ advantage again.
“I’m proud of the way they stepped up and battled back tonight,” Callaghan said.
Wolfe became the go-to guy for Sumner in the fourth quarter. His consecutive baskets gave the Spartans a four-point lead with four minutes to go. Wolfe also sank key free throws late in the game, going 5-of-6 from the line during the final minutes of the game.
“I think we’ve worked out some of those little kinks,” Kambich said following the game. “I think we were still working them out in the first half, but that second half is how we should play throughout the season.”
Sumner 58, South Kitsap 54
Sumner 18 15 10 15 — 58
South Kitsap 13 12 18 11 — 54
Sumner (58) — Lear 15, Wolfe 14, Birrer 8, Tannenberg 7, Bohl 4, Denison 3, Ross 3, Andino 2, Bakke 2.
South Kitsap (54) — Escolta 13, Kambich 13, Ward 12, Lamoreaux 6, Morkert 4, Potz 4, Kelso 2.
— Mark Krulish is a reporter at Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.