PORT ORCHARD — Monday night’s game was a big test for a young team. South Kitsap needed a victory over fifth-place Curtis in order to bolster their hopes of making the postseason.
But the more seasoned Vikings were clutch down the stretch, hitting more of their free throws as both teams were in the double bonus for much of the fourth quarter. Their 20-for-26 performance from the charity stripe made the difference as Curtis prevailed, 50-43.
The Wolves, who had started the second half with a strong offensive showing, faded late, hitting just one field goal in the fourth quarter.
“We struggled to score; it’s free throws, layups, we didn’t shoot the three really well,” said head coach CJ Scott. “Honestly, if I could point to one thing, it’s shooting.”
Justyne Niemann led South Kitsap with a double-double, scoring 11 points and picking up 11 rebounds. The 5-foot-9 freshman was phenomenal on the glass and did a good job of keeping Curtis’s scorers from getting too many points in the paint.
The defense held Curtis to just nine points in the third quarter, and the Wolves went into the final stanza with a 37-35 lead.
“We’re really confident in our man defense,” Scott said. “Last week against Bellarmine, we played them really tough.”
Niemann also sparked the third quarter rally which gave them that lead, hitting all three of her shots as South Kitsap erased the five-point deficit they faced going into the halftime break.
The two teams went back and forth for much of the rest of the second half. Niemann tied the game at 41 in the fourth quarter by connecting on the second of her two free throw attempts after being fouled at the basket. The Wolves’ next two possessions ended similarly, with Danae Hughes hitting one of two free throws each time to give her team a 43-41 lead.
Shawnacee Davis answered for Curtis with a layup to tie the game at 43 and the Vikings were able to pull away over the last couple of minutes. Takara English, who scored a game-high 18 points, hit three of her final four free throw attempts and Catherine Matz hit the dagger on a layup with just a minute to go.
“We’ve had some games where we’re in it against good teams,” Scott said. “We just have to keep plugging away and break through against one of these better teams.”
South Kitsap hasn’t been eliminated from postseason contention, but they will likely have to win three out of their next four to get in or tie for sixth. The Wolves’ loss to Olympia on Jan. 11 followed by the Bears’ win over Curtis last week completely changed the playoff calculus.
The team will finish their regular season schedule with Graham-Kapowsin, Sumner, Rogers and Puyallup. They have already beaten Graham-Kapowsin and Puyallup once and will likely have to sweep those teams and beat Sumner on Friday night to have a chance.
Curtis 50, South Kitsap 43
CR 16 10 9 15 — 50
SK 13 8 16 6 — 43
Curtis (50) — English 18, Brubaker 12, Davis 6, Matz 6, Spencer 4, Maxwell 3, Doty 1.
South Kitsap (43) — Niemann 11, Prudhomme 8, Amian 6, Hughes 4, Spandler 4, Linne 3, Millet 3, Byrd 2, Loudermilk 2.