PORT ORCHARD — After three consecutive games of failing to break into the 40s on the scoreboard, the Wolves were in need of a big offensive performance.
Junior forward Gavin Morkert delivered in a breakout game, scoring a game-high 25 points and lifting South Kitsap to a 61-55 win over Graham-Kapowsin, which officially clinched for the team a playoff berth.
Morkert is now in his second year as a starter, and his potential to be one of the best players in the South Puget Sound League is has begun to shine through.
“Last year coming in, first time on varsity, I was scared, nervous, and everything,” Morkert said. “But this year after playing a whole year and almost another one, I’ve definitely settled down and figured some things out.”
He put it all together Saturday night against the Eagles, providing a pair of highlight-worthy dunks and continuing to pick up key baskets in clutch moments. Morkert was 10 for 13 from the field and hit all four of his free throw attempts.
“He is talented and the more confident he gets, the better he’s going to get,” said head coach John Callaghan.
Perhaps no bucket was bigger than his putback to give South Kitsap a 59-55 lead with less than a minute to go. The rebound off a missed shot was initially brought down by Kyler Kelso. The Eagles defense swarmed and Kelso was unable to put up a clean shot, but Morkert boxed out his opponent to grab another rebound and go up strong to the hoop and finish the opportunity.
After Graham-Kapowsin missed on a 3-point attempt, Donavin Grant was fouled and sent to the free throw line where he hit both attempts to seal the victory.
The game was a far cry from the matchup between these two teams a week earlier down in Graham. The Wolves committed a ton of turnovers against an aggressive Eagles press and couldn’t get into an offensive rhythm as they lost 50-38.
“Last time over at there place, I don’t think we were ready for their pressure,” Callaghan said. “We had 26 turnovers, it was ridiculous. We took care of the ball tonight, we did all those little things you have to do against pressure.”
This time, after an uneven first quarter, South Kitsap shot well and outrebounded their opponent. Kelso added 12 points, Grant finished with eight and DeAnte Ward and Eli Mackie both chipped in seven.
“I thought we did a way better job with execution in the half-court offense,” Callaghan said. “That’s a big win for us.”
The win gave South Kitsap seven wins in the SPSL 4A, which guarantees the team a spot in the top six. The bottom three teams, Emerald Ridge, Bellarmine and Graham-Kapowsin, cannot finish with more than six wins. The Wolves’ final three games will see them attempt to hold off Rogers and Sumner for fourth place.
South Kitsap 61, Graham-Kapowsin 55
GK 16 12 13 14 — 55
SK 9 17 16 19 — 61
Graham-Kapowsin (55) — Harvey 16, Hansen 14, Wood 10, Lewis 8, Ross 4, Diaz 3.
South Kitsap (61) — Morkert 25, Kelso 12, Grant 8, Mackie 7, Ward 7, Escolta 2.
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @MKrulishKDN.