KINGSTON — Kingston Junior High outlasted Poulsbo in the final game of the 2007 regular season Thursday, returning the favor by dashing the Panthers’ previously undefeated record.
Yet, not many players or coaches on either side feel it will be the final meeting between the teams.
Both the Panthers and the Cavs have closed out the last year each school will be a junior high with sterling 8-1 records, claiming No. 1 and 2 seeds in the junior high Olympic League. Headed into the postseason tournament bracket — which begins Tuesday — many are hoping for a Poulsbo/Kingston championship match-up.
“That would really be a fitting end,” Kingston head coach Tim French said.
But first, each team must get past their first round opponents as Kingston will host No. 4 Central Kitsap, while Poulsbo will host No. 3 Marcus Whitman, both beginning at 3 p.m. March 20. The winners from those games will match up in the finale March 22.
“It’s going to be a really exciting and intense week,” Poulsbo Junior High point guard Courtney Coleman said.
For Kingston on March 15, intensity was the key to its 49-48 victory.
After losing to Poulsbo in the first meeting due partly to a lack of spunk in the early going, the Cavaliers were determined, this time, from the get-go. Eighth-grade KJH sharpshooter Sophia Baetz opened the game with back-to-back three-pointers.
Poulsbo answered with an offensive surge of its own, and the teams ended the first quarter almost knotted, with the score 8-7 in Poulsbo’s favor.
Kingston punctuated the beginning of the second quarter as Laura Wicklein pilfered a steal that turned into Baetz free throws at the other end. Baetz only made one from the line, but on the next Cavalier possession, she cashed in another triple as Kingston took a 13-9 advantage.
Then Poulsbo’s Brandi Ritter nailed a three, taking Poulsbo’s game up a notch.
“Brandi Ritter’s outside shot gives us confidence on offense, and we just tear it up on defense,” said Poulsbo freshman Destiny Sanchez.
Ritter’s shot rallied with two more Panther jumpers to take the lead into halftime 19-14.
“They put a lot of pressure on us which made us have to go into halftime and bring out a new play,” Wicklein said of the Panther defense.
“We changed some things up, tried to highlight some individuals,” French said. “We isolated Sophie (Baetz), and she was able to attack.”
In the third quarter, the tables turned back in favor of the Cavs as Baetz started the half with a bucket while Elle Sander followed with a huge block at the other end — one of five rejections for her on the game.
Baetz blew up in the third quarter, scoring 13 of her 28 points on the game, boosting the Cavs to their biggest lead, 35-29. They outscored Poulsbo by a count of 21-13 in the third frame, but with a Coleman three-pointer, the Panthers closed the quarter down only three, 32-35.
In the fourth, Coleman sparked another of the games many momentum shifts, opening the quarter with a fast-break lay-up and following with another three pointer. Poulsbo reclaimed the lead, 41-37, with five minutes remaining.
Kingston made up the difference with furious defense. By the two-minute mark it pulled within two and with a batch of free-throws the Cavs took a two-point advantage.
With under a minute left, the game was tied at 47.
Kingston fouled Poulsbo’s Crystal Hart; she made one of two and Kingston reclaimed possession with 30 seconds left.
Inline with the flow of the game, it was no surprise to Poulsbo that the Cavs went to Baetz. But it was hard-working Kateese Carter’s tenacity that the Panthers didn’t seeing coming.
With the clock ticking, Baetz penetrated and lofted a shot from the key which rimmed out. Carter was there for the offensive board and the put-back for the go-ahead, and eventually game-winning basket, 49-48.
The Cavalier defense swallowed Poulsbo’s final 15-seconds of opportunity.