YAKIMA – Olivia Selembo and her fellow North Kitsap seniors have been waiting three years for their chance to play at the 2A state tournament in Yakima.
Fortunately for them, they won’t be going home early.
Playing in the programs’ first state tournament game in 30 years, the Vikings (21-6) escaped their first round game against a tough Burlington-Edison (18-7) squad, winning a nail-biter 50-47 on Feb. 28 at the SunDome.
“It definitely would have been hard seeing these other teams all happy, they’re still alive and we’re stuck having to go back to school the next day,” said Selembo.
The senior guard helped ensure that did not happen, scoring a game-high 18 points in a contest that saw North Kitsap lose leading scorer Raelee Moore early in the second quarter to an injury.
“The truth is, every one of my players stepped up and did something,” head coach Penny Gienger said.
Moore’s minutes went primarily to Grace Johnson, who came up big in a tough situation, scoring eight points and providing a reliable presence at both ends of the court.
Senior post Erin Pearson scored 12 and was once again a physical presence underneath the basket; and sophomore Noelani Barreith added 11, playing her usually brand of hard-nosed basketball.
“You just have to keep going with what you have,” Gienger said.
Both teams took some time to shake off the morning dew for the 9 a.m. start; neither the Vikings nor the Tigers were especially sharp early. North Kitsap had passed up too many opportunities to shoot in the first quarter, prompting Gienger to call timeout to let her players know they were over-passing.
But the Vikings eventually found their groove against last year’s 2A state tournament runner-up.
With the offense running at optimal efficiency, North Kitsap went on an 8-0 run early in the second quarter, capped by a back-door basket by Pearson. The Vikings led 24-18 at halftime, but the Tigers would soon climb back into the game.
Burlington-Edison’s Shannon Husband hit back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the third to cut North Kitsap’s lead to one. Gienger again called timeout to reset her team and the players responded as Selembo hit a huge 3-pointer from the wing and Barreith hit 1-of-2 free throws after being fouled on the ensuing possession. Pearson then hit back-to-back layups to close the third with the Vikings leading by five heading into the fourth.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, they got second place at state last year,” Gienger said. “They had a little pressure on their backs, more so than us, so we knew it wasn’t going to be easy.”
The Tigers went on an 11-0 run in the fourth quarter, thanks in part to a pair of 3-pointers by Allyson Ray, who finished with a team-high 17. Burlington-Edison led 45-44, but Barreith came to the rescue with a pair of baskets, the latter off a terrific pass from Lauren Weins. Selembo and Johnson each hit a late free throw to help ice the victory.
“You can’t just stop because you’re tired, everybody’s tired,” Selembo said. “You just have to push through.”
It will be another 9 a.m. game on Thursday, March 1, as North Kitsap takes on Archbishop Murphy (22-2) in the second round of the tournament. The Wildcats defeated Port Angeles 50-36 in the regional tournament and received a bye through the first round. The game finished after press deadline for the North Kitsap Herald. Check Kitsapdailynews.com for updates on the boys and girls basketball teams at the state tournament.
North Kitsap 50, Burlington-Edison 47
NK 7 17 13 11 – 50
BE 7 11 16 13 – 47
North Kitsap (50) – Selembo 18, Pearson 12, Barreith 11, Johnson 8, Weins 1.