Clutch shooting leads Kingston past Central Kitsap

Sierra Denning led the Bucs with 14 points

KINGSTON — After a slow start, the Bucs found their offensive footing, and some hot shooting helped them sneak past 3A Central Kitsap in a Jan. 2 non-league contest.

Sierra Denning scored a game-high 14 points, all in the second half, and helped spark a third quarter run that vaulted her team into the lead at halftime.

The sophomore guard hit three field goals in quick succession, which gave Kingston (4-7) a lead and then a comfortable margin for the first time in the game.

“I’m always talking to them about basketball IQ and learning to think like a basketball player,” Kingston head coach Charles Deam said. “She hit two in a row, so now they have to think ‘get her the ball.’ Let’s swing the ball to her and get a heat check.”

After Central Kitsap (1-10) cut the deficit to 34-32 early the fourth quarter, the Bucs went on an 8-2 run to reestablish command. Antonia Ewing scored her only basket of the game, a 3-pointer from the left wing, and that was quick followed by a steal and layup from Kylee Walker. Denning then sunk a triple from the left baseline and Kingston led 43-34.

“We started to get going and started to heat up,” Denning said. “We found the open shooters, and our drive and kick and penetrate, which really helped us.”

The Cougars continued to battle however, and cut the lead to just three points late in the final frame. Neumann hit back-to-back layups as part of her team-leading 14-point effort and then Pono Fuiava drilled a 3-pointer from the left wing and Kingston led 46-43.

But after a foul on Walker as she drove for a layup with 1:20 left, the Bucs’ sophomore point guard nailed her free throws to ice the victory. Walker finished the game with 10 points and 8 assists.

“Two weeks ago, we didn’t know how to finish a game or how to take care of the ball at the end of games,” Deam said. “We’re starting to think like basketball players.”

Kingston was cold at the start. The Cougars had a distinct size advantage with posts Alexandra Neumann, Sierra Richmond and Arianna Reyes patrolling the paint, and it forced the Bucs to take more shots from the outside. While Kingston has a number of skilled outside shooters and that should have played into its strengths, the shots simply weren’t falling in the first half. The Bucs hit only six field goals in the first half, and three of them were 3-pointers by Leetsah Deam.

Central Kitsap led 20-17 at the break.

“They played a good zone, they were forcing us into those shots tonight,” Deam said. “There weren’t a lot of cuts open through the middle, that was a testament to their defense. They stayed really disciplined in their zone.”

Kingston 48, Central Kitsap 45

CK 9 11 10 15 — 45

KN 8 9 16 15 — 48

Central Kitsap (45) — Neumann 14, Taylor 11, Fuiava 9, Pilchard 3, Anderson 2, Reyes 2, Richmond 2, Sincere 2.

Kingston (48) — Denning 14, Deam 10, Walker 10, Brockman 6, Skinner 5, Ewing 3.

— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @MKrulishKDN.

Cougars guard Jai-Lynn Taylor dribbles by the Kingston defense. Taylor scored 11 points against the Bucs on Jan. 2. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)

Cougars guard Jai-Lynn Taylor dribbles by the Kingston defense. Taylor scored 11 points against the Bucs on Jan. 2. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)