POULSBO — Before the season, North Kitsap head coach Scott Orness set out his goals for the year, and they are lofty.
Orness believes his team can win the league and district titles, as well as finish in the top five at the state tournament.
There are still plenty of miles left on the road to the Yakima SunDome, and the early returns have been positive for the Vikings, but head coach and players agree there is still plenty of work to do.
On Dec. 6, the Vikings took on Bremerton, which had to replace just about its entire varsity roster from a year ago. During their 70-38 victory, there were flashes of brilliance — such as Kai Warren’s dunk after throwing the ball off the backboard to himself — but there were also turnovers and some sloppy play that helped keep the Knights in the game early on.
“We’ve got a long way to go when it comes to playing with good discipline,” Orness said following the win. “We’ve got great athleticism in this group and we have to have that balance between letting our guys go with their athleticism, but also being disciplined on the floor and making good decisions.”
With important games against Port Angeles and Olympic on the horizon — they appear to be the two teams that stand the best chance to unseat the three-time defending league champions — North Kitsap will have to work out those kinks quickly in order to establish itself as the top dog in the league.
Against Bremerton, Warren led all players with 28 points and was a force at both ends of the court. Sophomore wing Shaa Humphrey added 12 points and dominated both the offensive and defensive boards.
When the Vikings were at their best, they were dynamic, with an offensive flair capable of lifting fans out of their seats and a defense that is difficult to break down due to their size, length and aggressiveness.
“We’re really deep, and we’re really good individually, but as a team we haven’t played together that long,” Warren said. “In summer ball, we started to click, but then a few of us, like me and Kii [Neal], we had to leave for football [and] we missed out on some of that chemistry. So, now we just have to get back to working together.”
On the other hand, a few turnovers led to easy baskets for the Knights. Young Bremerton guards Keith Jackmon and Caleb Washington were able to parlay a few offensive miscues into layups at the offensive end. The Knights were behind by just 10 at halftime before the Vikings really kicked things into gear.
But Orness believes his team is coming along nicely and his goals are still well within reach. The season is just four games old, after all, and teams always want to be at their best as they head into the postseason. The best is likely still yet to come for North Kitsap.
“I’m happy with our progress, the guys are coming together as a team,” said Orness. “That’s what is most important right now, and it’s my job to get them playing that good disciplined basketball.”
North Kitsap 70, Bremerton 38
Bremerton 5 16 7 10
North Kitsap 16 15 17 22
Bremerton (38) – Jackmon 10, Peterson 9, Washington 7, Irving 5, M. Retome 3, Boekenoogen 2, Logova 2.
North Kitsap (70) – Warren 28, Humphrey 12, King 8, Olmstead 6, Jagodzinske 5, Hecker 4, Zinn 4, McMillian 3.
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org