PORT ORCHARD — South Kitsap’s Emily Riehl started the night with a bang, and then ended it with one.
The senior forward sang a beautiful rendition of the national anthem to kick off opening night and then beat the buzzer with a jump shot to lift her team to a 51-49 victory over Kingston Nov. 27. Riehl scored a game-high 18 points, none bigger than her last two.
“It was such a great way to start off the season,” Riehl said.
The game ended with a wild sequence. The Bucs had just reclaimed the lead on a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Suzanne Skinner. A foul shot by Leetsah Deam then gave Kingston a three-point lead with less than a minute to go. South Kitsap worked the ball around to give senior Paige Ohman an open look, and she drilled a shot from beyond the arc to tie the game with 7.3 seconds left in regulation.
Kingston then called a timeout to set up a play, but freshman Natalie Millet forced a turnover as the Bucs tried to break through some pressure on the inbound. The ball ended up in the hands of Riehl who let go of a short jumper to win the game.
“It was outstanding, and it was a group effort,” said assistant coach Tami Helwig, who is filling in as head coach of the team.
The Buccaneers actually held the lead for much of the game, and a hot start by Deam and Kylee Walker helped Kingston out to an 11-2 first-quarter lead, though they would not be able to sustain that pace.
“Usually that’s our bread and butter,” head coach Charles Deam said. “I think we’ll relax a little, and going forward we’ll shoot the ball a lot better.”
The Wolves were able to settle down and ultimately keep themselves within striking distance. Riehl was often at the center of South Kitsap’s offensive flourishes, but Helwig managed to get all 12 varsity players time on the floor and many — such as Ohman, whose game-tying 3-pointer was her only basket of the game — were able to make contributions. Ten players scored at least one point.
“Once it started, they really got into it and they realized it’s a big step up from JV,” Riehl said.
The two teams generally traded scores throughout the game as neither were able to go on a long run. Kingston largely maintained its four-point margin until Riehl hit a pair of free throws to give her team a 36-35 lead with 1:22 left in the third quarter.
Midway through the fourth quarter, Hailey Rodriguez gave South Kitsap a 42-39 lead, marking the beginning of a 7-0 run. But the Bucs roared back one more time behind sophomore Sierra Denning and freshman Ellee Brockman, who each led Kingston with 11 points, setting the stage for Skinner’s 3-pointer and the madcap finish.
“We got a lot out of it. That’s what I was telling them in there,” Deam said. “I’m not mad at the outcome. We’re definitely going to learn from it. We’re just so young.”
South Kitsap 51, Kingston 49
KN 18 11 7 13 — 49
SK 14 11 10 16 — 51
Kingston (49) — Brockman 11, Denning 11, Deam 9, Walker 9, Skinner 8, Ewing 1.