POULSBO — With just one win in their first four league games, the Kingston Bucs playoff season started a little earlier than usual this year.
With Port Angeles and Sequim firmly entrenched atop the Olympic League standings, the team knew coming out of the holiday break that games against North Mason, North Kitsap and Olympic were going to be vital to qualifying for the postseason.
The Bucs scored a big victory on Friday night, knocking off their district rival North Kitsap for the first time since January 2016. The players hit some big shots down the stretch to come away with a 49-46 victory.
“That’s who I thought we were to start the season,” said Kingston head coach Charles Deam. “That’s the best we’ve played all year as far as staying focused for 32 minutes.”
North Kitsap started the fourth quarter on a 9-0 run thanks to a couple of nice layups by Noelani Barreith and a big 3-pointer from freshman Sophia Baugh. Kylee Walker and Leetsah Deam responded with a 3-pointer each to give Kingston a three point lead with three minutes to play.
Katie Komar cut the deficit to one for North Kitsap with a pair of big free throws, but Sierra Denning answered with a three from the left wing to push the lead back to four.
“We stayed focused the entire time, I think we just really wanted it,” said Leetsah Deam, Kingston’s senior guard who finished tied with Ellee Brockman with a game-high 14 points.
After a Barreith jumper, Walker was fouled and hit both ends of a 1-and-1. It was 47-43 with under a minute to play.
Needing a big play to stay alive, Baugh buried a 3-pointer from the right baseline for North Kitsap with a hand right in her face. That brought Kingston’s lead down to one, but with such little time left, the Vikings had no choice but to foul. Walker and Deam each hit one of their two free throws down the stretch and the defense held firm.
“We have to win games like this in order to make districts and they are understanding that sense of urgency,” Deam said.
The win creates a logjam in the middle of the league standings. North Mason is currently in third place at 3-2 and North Kitsap and Kingston are both now 2-3 while Olympic is 1-4. Games between these four teams over the next month will have major playoff implications.
Kingston hosts Olympic on Tuesday next week while North Kitsap travels down to North Mason.
Kingston 49, North Kitsap 46
KI 7 15 10 17 — 49
NK 6 9 13 18 — 46
Kingston (49) — Brockman 14, Deam 14, Walker 9, Skinner 7, Denning 5.